Negotiating boundaries…

Part of JB’s art studio in the house is in half of our bedroom and has been for years. Though this is fine with me on an intellectual level, there has always been a piece of me that finds sleeping in the midst of paints, papers, tools, and general artistic chaos a bit unsettling, especially if you include my own mess of books, clothes, and papers on my side of the bed.

A person ought to be able to close the door to their studio and maintain some private space. (I can do this. My studio is in a separate room downstairs.) A person ought to be able to invite others into their studio space and not have to worry if the bed is made or if the laundry is picked up off the floor.  And, of course, a person ought to be able to sleep in a space uncluttered with distractions. JB used to use the basement as his studio, but until we have some major work done there, it remains damp, sometimes flooding, and awful cold in the winter. So, JB’s studio in the bedroom is the most viable location at present.

Yesterday we bought some japanese screens and divided JB’s studio from the rest of the bedroom. The boundary of the screens immediately calmed the space, transformed its mood and energy, released a quiet tension.

With borders demarcated we recognized that there were items in his studio space that shouldn’t be there, items that were put there in earlier incarnations of the space including a file cabinet filled with household papers and my “column of knowledge” which was hanging from the ceiling. We decided to move the column into the library to open up his space.

The “column of knowledge” is made of volumes of an encyclopedia, which I found in an alley. The column itself is stacked with bolted three-volume sections. Inside the pages of the stacked volumes I have stuffed letters from family and friends. As we were rehanging the column in the library, the bolt we had put in the ceiling to hold it pulled right out and the books crashed to the floor (see above).

A quick ride to the hardware store to get some pipe supported a new solution, more grounded and stable. The top of the pipe fit perfectly well in the hole we had ripped in the ceiling in our earlier attempt to rehang it. It was pretty intense at first stuffing the correspondence back into the pages of the encyclopedias. There was a letter my father had sent me when I was in the ACM program talking about those “SDSers” and freedom of speech, letters from an old lover referring to people and events I hardly remembered, cards from my son when he was very young, filled with lots of misspellings and lots of love. It obviously got to be too much emotionally and so I randomly and quickly stuffed the cards and letters back into the column and called it a day.

At one point, some years ago, I had planned to do a performance piece using the column, randomly selecting a letter or two and riffing on the memory a la Spalding Gray. But it all seemed a bit too narcissistic. And besides, visually in the library, the column is rather compelling and provocative all on its own.

Negotiating boundaries has allowed JB more room and privacy in his studio. These boundaries have freed my column from obscurity and neglect. And these boundaries have gained for us both a more tranquil and ordered space to rest.

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8 Responses to Negotiating boundaries…

  1. KG Waite says:

    The column of knowledge! I love this! Neat, neat idea.

  2. Michael says:

    All these years and I have never noticed the Column! And yes, a performance piece is in order. Any of my letters or notes in there? Did I send any?

    • jyourist says:

      Indeed. You and G are part of this column as well. Of course, just to make sure, you could snail mail me and I’ll be sure to put it in the column…. now that the column is accessible.

  3. Column of Knowledge – wonderful idea – but yes, seems much better in its new home. Screens are a great idea if you can’t set up a separate room – and should also be used to separate beds from exercise equipment if both are in the bedroom.

  4. Darci says:

    I am loving this column idea. I have recently inherited a multi-branched tree in my classroom and was not certain of its purpose…I am thinking of using it as a Prompt tree. I will hang various “unjournaling” prompts from its branches and then have a student select the prompt of the day, similar to your idea of extracting a memory and creating a monologue.

  5. Jerome Bloom says:


  6. Pingback: The wabi-sabi of journey | Nexus

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