The Art of Accumulation

I attended Tara Gladden’s curator talk tonight at the Cade Gallery at Anne Arundel Community College. This is a really interesting and special show, open from April 24 through May 22, 2024. Chris Mona of AACC said more than 600 people applied, and 20 were selected. I am very honored.

Tara Gladden and Chris Mona

The call for entry contained the following statement:

This exhibition invites works that engage with the concept of accumulation through the combination and exploration of non-traditional materials, repetitive processes, and/or relationships between material, time, memory, and experience.

I’ve been working on scenes in old watches, with the thread of “a persistence of memory” threaded through them. I definitely combine non-traditional materials, repetitive processes, and I explore relationships between material, time, memory, and experience. I was very excited.

My response to this call was this:

As a diorama maker, I make use of discarded materials as the containers for my tiny tableaus, including spoons, Altoid boxes, and most recently, watches. As an artist, I have accumulated large quantities of these materials, and have created hundreds of scenes with them.

The British empiricist John Locke’s “memory theory” states that a person’s identity only reaches as far as their memory extends into the past. Our memory is malleable and imperfect. Using discarded wrist watches and pocket watches, I explore the impermanence and reliability of memory with tiny cut paper dioramas, and consider how identity evolves through time. The viewer is invited to “get close” to the work, both figuratively, and literally, as tiny drawings are alluring. Placing my own real, distorted and dream memories into non-functioning chronometers, a narrative emerges which is intimate, biographic and also a work of sudden fiction.

My approach to the materials I use in my work is aligned with the philosophy of Les Arts Modestes (the Modest Arts). I find immense value in using everyday, ordinary, and humble objects.

Artists tend to accumulate things – most of the working artists that I know do. For myself, I tend to acquire:

  • spoons
  • clocks
  • watches
  • small metal boxes, Altoids, etc.
  • plastic toy figures
  • bread ties
  • Birkenstocks (I haven’t gotten to this collection yet, other than the first protoype).
  • guitar pedals
  • old tape players
  • cassettes
  • guitars
  • drums
  • old books + print material
  • Tyvek
  • Etc.

Tara mentioned something that I have been repressing, which is guilt. We, especially Americans, consume and discard SO MUCH (packaging, plastic, gasoline, electricity, etc.). I try to be mindful of what I acquire, and I attempt to keep compulsive collecting in check. Compulsive creating is allowed. I also think, as I continue to grow older, that time is my most valuable resources. I do not want to squander time.

A Persistence of Memory, the title of this grouping, is also an intentional nod to the surrealists.

This show has a lot to offer – animation, sculptural work, a chair made from spaghetti, and a lot to think about. It’s very user friendly, too, and reminds me a great deal of work found at the American Visionary Art Museum (AVAM).

Jim and Matt Klos


AACC made a video of Tara’s talk, which was very good. And, here’s a excerpt of yours truly: