Everything Becomes Art

The Item Under Discussion

Even though the missus and I do not currently hold job titles that indicate we will be paid for creativity, we remain artists.  We are used to using our intelligence to take everything we go through and everything we own and trying to turn it into some form of creative expression. A fun part of our current de-cluttering project is re-purposing material we have acquired but do not need.  In the last entry I mentioned using award trophies as coat hooks.  This week we re-framed an expensive item that used to hold great significance for women of an earlier generation.

Mary’s mother died a long time ago.  Mary owns and cherishes possessions that held meaning for the both of them.  It’s comforting to have totems of our ancestors, but some of what we inherit will inevitably conflict with our current system of values.  Mary and I do eat animal flesh, but we eat a lot less of it than our parents did.  We also use some animal products, like leather goods, but we are more conscious that another being died providing the product than our parents were.  Value is relative.  Things are priced and traded based not only upon concrete things like scarcity (supply and demand) but also upon the symbolism we affix to the totem.

Back in the mists of antiquity, humans used to kill and convert animal skins and feathers into clothing to shield against the weather.  I think that’s justifiable under the requirements of survival.  However, we have since become more sophisticated in the technology of raiment and can make what we need from plants, and use processes that don’t require killing, such as wool-gathering and silk manufacture.  We can even get feathers without killing, and can make synthetic imitations as good or better than the original animal pelts.  Faux fur costs less and is more durable.  But enough of this philosophic beating around the bush.  The problem we had to solve was what to do with Mom’s mink coat.

Ah, mink coats.  They were once the epitome of mass-marketed glamour in the first half of the 20th century.  Mink was worn by film stars, fashion models and rich people.  Ordinary women dreamt of being given one, and ordinary men believed a woman given one would be theirs forever.  There’s an episode of I Love Lucy about confusion over a rented mink coat.  It’s an item still worn by hip-hop idols and clueless sex symbols.

There’s nothing unique about the coats of these inquisitive little weasels.  They were just cheaper and easier to trap and hunt than beaver, fox or bear.  There used to be an aquatic variety of mink, but we hunted them to extinction a hundred years ago.

Despite the fact that she looks nice naked inside it, Mary doesn’t need a mink coat.  We talked about the different disposal possibilities.  Give it to the homeless or a charity?  We decided that for us, that would represent a kind of symbolic oppression.  Are you one of society’s have-nots?  Fine, here’s a fur – now go find a cave to live in.

After thinking about the history of how mink has been used in movies, I realized the coat would still be useful and appropriate as costume.  Mary called up our local community players, the Key City Public Theater.  They understood our intent immediately, and were thrilled to have the donation.  Some day Mom’s mink coat will adorn characters in the plays of Noel Coward or the comedies of Kaufman and Hart.  And I don’t mind seeing minks in the movies.  They are symbols of another time and another place, the rags-to-riches America of celluloid dreams.


16 Comments

Filed under Cinema, Ethics and Morality, photos, symbolism

16 responses to “Everything Becomes Art

  1. I hope she doesn’t regret not having it for sentimental reasons, but I would be afraid to wear it in public. Hope you’re not gonna be gone much longer. I miss reading you.

    • I do appreciate your support, Lisa. It’s going to take me about a month to cut back to be here more often. The work schedules get posted a month ahead at the dementia care facility, and several of my residents are close to death. I can’t abandon them.

  2. A good read. Would really love it if you would turn your tweet button on so I could share your posts on Twitter. You can do that on WordPress.com now too!

    • Pardon my lack of social network edumacation. I don’t know how to do that without actually joining Twitter, which I won’t do, on general anonymity principles. I am complimented that you ladies feel my writing deserves a wider audience. For now I retain my Luddite attitude toward Twitter, Facebook, MySpace etc. Besides, I prefer a performance aspect called the “slow reveal” – essential to the acts of illusionists, filmmakers, and exotic dancers. If my invisibility is going to work as a literary pretense, I want to take off the mask over a long period of time via arcane clues in the posts. I’m willing to wait for the ancient “word-of-mouth” effect.

  3. Deborah

    I second the Twitter suggestion!

  4. Pie

    Fourth!

    I understand your reasons, though, and I respect you for it.

    As for the fur coat, I think you have found a very good use for it. And it maintains the connections you both have with the arena of performance. I think your choice of images for this post are particularly good. Mae West looks amazing.

    • I concur, Pie. La West does look amazing. I enjoy photo editing very much, and am happy you liked my choices. The final image is from the MGM “Thin Man” films, which I helped restore for DVD.

  5. I love the last pic in this post. It gave me a good laugh. I love the expression on his face.

    I’ve missed your posts.

    • Thank you, Tracy. Our relationship is somewhat similar in style to that of Nick and Nora Charles, the amateur detective couple portrayed in that photo (and in the “Thin Man” films). He’s shooting ornaments off an out-of-frame Christmas Tree with his new air-pump pellet gun, her gift to him. He got her the mink coat.

  6. I don’t think the two of you could have found a more creative way to re-purpose the mink. Chances are, you’ll get to see M’s mother’s coat in all the dignity it carried before it was stored in a closet. Good for you, you made a great choice.
    I’m looking forward to all of your re-purposing, perhaps when you’re done with all of your stuff, I’ll be able to talk you into my favorite pasttime, dump salvaging. 🙂

  7. Dump salvage is a fine pastime indeed. My mother does it, and also gets clothes from second-hand and consignment shops or garage sales. We will certainly do it if only we can get down to the point of needing something, rather than having too much. What I’m most aware of needing right now is more time. The longer this process has gone on, the more space we have re-claimed.

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