It was interesting to watch and see how different people responded to different elements of my collage work.
Some were drawn to letters, words, or documents that had a certain familiarity to them and they would share with me their stories.
Others were fascinated with the use of ink in the work and would comment on the placement of it within the composition. Many were brought in by the textural aesthetics of a particular element or combination of elements and wonder what the bit or piece within the collage they were viewing had originally been and say that the threads and strings of frayed edges and spines of books were especially appealing to them.
Yes, I would agree, Yes, these were some of my favorite things too, these bits and pieces and scraps, these ink blotches and fragments, they were all very appealing to me as well.
But somewhere in the back of my mind, I could still see them in their original form. Not as they were when they were brand new, off the press sheet music or newly purchased books, but as they were when I found them. Discards of long forgotten lives. Beat up, worn down, time weathered and well, just plain old trash.
The stuff I use in my work is typically the stuff nobody else wants. I don't need to rush to the estate sale and line up at the crack of dawn. No, the books I use are falling out of their covers and the book dealers have long since left the premises, no doubt turning up their noses at the editions that I treasure. Many times an estate dealer will breath a sigh of relief to see what I am purchasing, as they thought they would surely be throwing these things away after the sale.
And so I marveled as person after person proclaimed to me "You need to raise your prices!" and looked at my work time and again throughout the show wondering, as somebody was handing me money, what would compel a person to tell me they were willing to pay an even higher price for something I had made? Did they really look? Didn't they really see what it was they were buying?
And it was one such remark, said on the last day of the show, after hearing this remark many times over the course of the event, as a man passed through my booth complimenting me on what he saw, parting words said in sincere exclamation, "You need to raise your prices!" that caught my ear just so and I turned my head once again to look.
And I felt a stirring in my heart and heard a whispering in my soul, as I first caught sight of myself in the glass, and then looked beyond to see the collage I had created inside, and heard that voice within.
God saying to look. Really look and see what it is that they see.
"You see trash, each bit that went into it as an individual element in its found form, but they see the whole picture."
Profound, that moment felt like one of those scenes from a movie, where all around the activity faded to a far away black and white scene and the noise receded to nothing and all I could hear was the beat of my own heart, and that whisper inside.
And then the picture blurred again and I caught my own eye in the glass.
And I heard it again, I saw it in my eye, felt it in my heart...
"You see your life the same way you see these collage elements. You see the past, certain events and choices, as nothing but trash. You feel ashamed of some and think if only they knew . . .but I see you as a complete picture. There is not a single element that I would remove. Each one is vital to the overall composition of who I created you to be. And each piece has value. You have intrinsic value to me."
"You need to raise your own price, my dear, I paid for you with my life."