Wednesday, September 26, 2007

We Wuz Robbed: the Nature of Value

Well, okay. I'm speaking in the editorial "we." Technically, I was robbed. And to get really specific, I wasn't actually robbed, I was burgled.

That is to say, my art studio was burgled. Someone came into a large open fully-fenced back yard by coming through a large solid wood gate between two houses full of people, came to the back of the lot, went to the back of my studio, took the screen off the rear window, opened the window as wide as it would go, climbed up on a plastic lawn chair and shimmied through. Almost nothing was disturbed. The crazy vine lights I have hanging in front of that window were slightly askew, but not in such a way that the wind couldn't have done it. This slick thief then apparently walked to the front of my studio and turned off the motion-detection security light that shines at my front door. And then ...

... apparently he or she looked around and realized this was perhaps not going to be the haul they had envisioned.

The burglar took exactly two things: a cordless drill and tool set that I paid $40 for at Orchard Supply Hardware, and a nicer Black and Decker cordless drill that had no juice and for which I had lost the charger, making it basically a doorstop. They were both in the kinds of plastic cases that shout "power tools," but their combined value was around $50 tops. Both those cases were missing, and the back door to my studio was unlocked from the inside, where Burglar-person let himself out.

My most valuable possessions--my mounted and framed work, my dress form (her name is Gladys), my little red wagon, my paints and pens and paper, my feathers and beads and fabric, my coffee maker--all these things appeared to be not worth his or her time. Nothing was touched. My tabouret was undisturbed. My flat files were unrifled. My table, littered with assorted treasures, was just as I had left it. Strangely enough, my medium format camera in its bag was sitting on the floor in front of the cabinet I had meant to lock it in a few nights before but didn't because there wasn't room--it too was untouched, which can't be anything but pure luck. So now I'm wondering ... did something happen and interrupt the burglar before he or she could make a thorough search of the room? Was that mystical "Somebody" looking out for me? Or is this really an odd kind of zen koan about the nature of value?

Clearly, my most valuable possessions have strong resonnance for me that they seem not to have had with Mr. or Ms. Burglar. Part of this is emotional. But part of it really is an example of what I like to think of as the artistic spirit; my "valuable" is the random person's "junk."

Or at the least, it's the random person's "un-fence-able."