I’ve been negligent about posting to SHARDS for several reasons. I wanted to change the look of the blog, and work on some website redesign as well.  So I’ve been busy, yes, but that’s no excuse.

Have you ever felt that the longer you go without doing something you should do, the harder it gets to do it? My brothers and I are of the generation that got swats on the bottom from our dad when we were little and did something REALLY bad. Daddy would let us choose the time for our swat, but would tell us that “the longer you wait, the harder it gets.” Sigh. The anticipation was worse than the swat, of course. Sometimes you just have to get it done and move on 🙂

But I digress – today I want to discuss “provenance,” a word that refers to the historical origin of a piece of art, or really any object. As an assemblage artist, provenance is hugely important to me. I believe that an object’s history can be sensed in some weird way, kind of like a shard of clay gives a clue to its history.

I’ve been working lately on a series of wrapped and bundles figures inspired by the Peruvian Chancay Burial dolls. Here’s the Chancay doll on the right and my interpretation is on the left.

Part of my process involves selecting specially-curated objects to wrap into the form. Here is another example:

Below are several little objects I want to wrap into the next figure – two seed pods and a feather.

No one who sees the finished doll will know about the provenance of these objects – they could be just some stuff I picked up anyplace. But the seed pods came from my Pride of Barbados tree which seemed completely dead after the snow disaster this year, but manages to come back gloriously despite the trauma. The feather came from the construction yard at SAY Si where they are building a wonderful new place to share art with the youth in San Antonio who really need it. So all three of these objects have a special “provenance,” a story of rebuilding and renewal.

As I said, no one but me knows about the provenance of these objects, but somehow they carry an aura of their story with them, and that infuses the finished piece with a sense of inexpiable mystery and meaning. You can do this with objects, with paper, with fiber.

When you have a choice in your own work of using something that has a special provenance even though it may not look quite as bright and shiny as something you bought at a craft store, consider the source, and go with what your heart says.

If you look up “provenance” as it relates to collecting art, you’ll find that it refers to the trail of ownership of an art object, or the history that got it from there to here. But every object has a history and a story based on where it is found. As an artist, you can incorporate those stories to give richness to your work.








29 thoughts on “Provenance

  1. What a great post, Lynn! Love all the stories and the provenance stories.
    And pulled my butt in when reading about the swats – way too familiar.
    But look how we turned out.
    Your art always seems rich with some mystery and history. Love it!!!
    And so great to get a SHARDS again. Thanks!

  2. A very timely article for me. I am transitioning from sewing to weaving, using a technique called free form weaving. I have a new loom with the start of a new piece. Your comments made me realize that I have many pieces of items with provenance acquired during my living and travels in Southeast Asia. Time to pull them out and incorporate them into my weaving to add to my stories. Thank you Lyn.

  3. I am in awe of these…i love the thought of wrapping a “surprise” within the heart of the spirit doll…beautiful work always Lyn and so meaningful…xo

  4. I love and appreciate the depth of your thinking and your work…the faces you have created just make me smile…thanks for your musings…

  5. It may have been awhile since you’ve posted Lyn, but wow, what soulful writing you’ve given us! Your pieces conjure the history they draw from, and I love following your trail!

  6. Thanks for this Lyn. It was especially meaningful to me in my newfound art of assemblage (thanks to you!) as I try to impart special meaning in my pieces.

  7. A beautiful and inspirational post Lyn, especially at a time of such busyness and digressions for me. Provenance brings it all back to focus – a creative circle of exploring and asking, and looking and finally making! Thanks for reminding us of that!

  8. Hi Lyn…this was so inspirational!
    I have been wanting to create an ancestral image, and your post made it just come together for me. I stuffed her body with herbs from my garden: mugwort, lavender, sage. I used pieces of cloth that had sentimental significance, plus added bits of antique lace from my grandmothers. I even added a little silk bag with my great-grandmother’s intitials (they were from before she married-circa 1850-embroidered tags sewed into clothing). She wears a found Raven feather in her hair (my spirit animal). I found a tiny Moonstone which I glued to her Third Eye. My Ancestral Spirit Doll has much Provenance! Thank you for this wonderful post!

  9. Hi Lyn..I saw yr previous post above from 2019 about that quick dry clay that you cure with a heat gun. How did it do for you? I don’t know whether I got a bad batch but it never did get hard. And had an awful smell!

    • I didn’t have much luck with it – apparently, it’s designed to be placed in a mold and heated that way. It doesn’t work if you just shape it and heat it on a tile or whatever and it doesn’t hold a shape. I didn’t use it after that one time experimenting. Even though Apoxie takes longer to dry, it works a lot better. Lately, I’ve been using paper clay when I’m not working with earthenware.
      Hope you’re warm up there! ♥

  10. Pingback: “Two-Byes” — scrap-and-shard sculpture | SHARDS: fragments and reflections

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