Assemblage class, San Francisco Art Institute, 1992.
Darla H., whose days of notoriety were yet to come, asked the class to contribute some hair to her project. I had recently had an epiphany about hair, hacking off my waist-length blonde locks to chin level and dying them blue-black, so I willingly sacrificed another handful to art.
A week later, Darla came back to class with two dozen tiny jars of varicolored hair. Their lids were collaged in all manner of styles. She invited us to choose one apiece; I chose mine for its study in contrasts, the greasy rag counterbalanced with dime-store jewelry shards, Chinese paper and tiny fish-hooks with sequins.
“Ah, the fish-hooks,” said Darla, nodding sagely at my choice.
Years later, Darla extended her art career into a particularly florid brand of evangelical Christianity, alienating the few people who’d stuck by her through her used-tampons-on-the-wall phase. I kept the jar of hair on my dresser until it shattered when the cat knocked it onto a tile floor. The fish-hooks remain, occasionally snagging sweaters or skin, reminding me that great art isn’t meant to be sweet or pretty.
Are there any objects that you keep around for historical purposes? Do share them in the comments!