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Sculpture to Process the Emotion of Guilt

Guilt is shifty and slippery. It’s hard to put into words and explain. So today, I set out to do a sculpture to synthesize thoughts about guilt using only found objects around my home.

I struggle sometimes with guilt. Sometimes it’s a floating, nebulous guilt. Sometimes a specific guilt. But either way my mind knows they are generally irrational emotions grounded in expectations of “shoulds.” That’s not to say that guilt is not sometimes a positive emotion because it can bring about positive changes within my outlook or behaviors. But, safe to say, for me, it’s generally an unproductive emotion.

Here’s how this curious object came about with lots of hot glue:

+ Started with the old parchment from ancestors that frankly had disintegrated into bits since it was improperly stored. I’d been moving this heap of pieces around for months now. I tried several times to lay it out to put all of it back together. Then today it bubbled up so strongly that I just said “To heck with this. I’m going to use it on art about guilt.”

+ I rummaged through the drawers to find stuff I can’t recycle and can’t bring myself to throw away – bits of frayed ribbon, spinach twist-ties, dog poop bag rolls, trimmed bits of watercolor art

+ The pencil stub is a reminder that I need to not run myself down. This still has an eraser and a point, but it nearly becomes unusable past a certain length. We need to give ourselves permission not to push ourselves too hard. Guilt can do just that. Generally berating myself just makes it worse.

I’ve not fleshed out how I will use this sculpture? How will I interact with it? Tim had a clever idea: put a slit in the top of the tea tin lid to insert a note about something that brought me the emotion of guilt. The reason the slit is clever is to remind me to put it in but not take it back out easily. At some point, that's why I left the lid able to be opened. After time passes, I can review the bits that I put in.

Some of my impressions of this sculpture

Making this sculpture, made me put into words some feelings about guilt.

  • Guilt has stilts. It’s wobbly, insecure, geared toward floods of emotion, tears.

  • Guilt can be a dock to tie a boat. But storms can wreck it. It’s not a solid, enduring feeling.

  • The feeling of guilt gets me feeling twisted, unraveled, wound around and wound up (twist ties, ribbons)

  • Guilt is portable and can travel easily if I pick up its handle. But I like that this skinny delicate handle isn’t glued and comes right out. An intentional irony.

  • Guilt is something we can consume – this little sculpture looks like some commercial food bucket to me? We don’t create guilt from within. It seems in my experience to largely be felt from societal pressures and from exterior forces.

  • And the base form is a tea tin? Which is fitting since the most enduring guilt can become like tea, we let it steep in us. But how does it change us if we don’t become aware of it and seek to resolve the guilt in a positive way. To practice the act of forgiveness on oneself is the beginning act to true forgiveness beyond ourselves, I think.

Sure it’s the holidays…I’m supposed to be full of cheer right? Well, I am cheerful too. I’m a whole web of emotions at times. Maybe I just need to invite my emotions to tea to listen a while. And then try to release them until they return? That's sort of what I did today. It was a fun activity for me.

Thanks for listening to my random reflections. Maybe you found some inspiration?

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