Installation, Headlands Center for the Arts
Portfolio: The Repair Work of Claudia Tennyson
I AM a chronic closet cleaner, ritualistically purging objects from my life that no longer serve a supposed functional purpose, despite their stored memories. I’ve actually teared up over throwing away or donating unused stuffed animals, overcome as I am with feelings of guilt and abandonment—the sense that I am not only removing an object from my life, but attempting to remove my past.
In this sense, I like to imagine Claudia Tennyson as not simply a repairer of objects, but perhaps also a mender of broken and abandoned memories. In her Repair Series, for which Tennyson has asked people to drop off items they feel are in need of fixing, she transforms broken objects, not necessarily restoring them to their original state, or even keeping them recognizable. In doing so, she redefines “repair” and, as she explains, “what it means to hang on to something thought of as useless and give it another life.” As a result, “these objects then become metaphors for what we think is necessary to give up on, whether it is a broken cup or a difficult relationship.”
Although it could be argued that the real art in Tennyson’s work is found in her interactions with the public—her process of receiving, mending, fixing, rearranging, and eventually giving back—the images that remain of her repaired objects are enough to make me reconsider what I choose to throw away, whether it be a deserted toy or a regrettable memory. Perhaps everything has the potential to be mended. —Tara Goe