January 7, 2013

Much to do about stuff

Student explores changing views of material culture

CHAZY — Christina Elliot possesses a keen interest in material culture.

She enjoys exploring how antiques and relics circulate from private to public spheres and how their histories are constantly recreated and reinterpreted.

On Wednesday evening, Elliot will present “Engaging [with] Relics” at the Alice T. Miner Museum in Chazy.

During her lecture, Elliot explores the evolution of rubbish to relics, currency of “Antiques Roadshow,” how contemporary society interfaces with relics and the impact of new media platforms.

“What we collect says something about who we are in a society,” said Elliot, who is enrolled in the master’s program for contemporary art history, theory and criticism at San Francisco Art Institute in California. She is a 2003 graduate of Peru Central School and an alum of Clinton Community College and SUNY Plattsburgh.

“Who we are is reflected in our material culture and how they are collected, from a $100,000 comic-book collection or Rosewood glass or Redford glass. It depends on the personality of the person and how a collection is an important aspect of ourselves and our history,” she said.

Elliot has a penchant for small boxes and containers made from wood, glass or metals.

“It doesn’t really matter,” she said. “I find (it) really interesting to put tacks and beads in little containers. It’s interesting in this area. You’re downtown in the flea markets and poke around. It’s like a treasure hunt in itself, the mystery of the history they carry and how they invoke the imagination. I’m thinking how these things have a past life and what lives they’ve previously lived.” 

Private objects circulate more fluidly among the masses through online markets such as eBay. Alice T. Miner would have loved it, and her collection, its authenticity and proximity puts Elliot in a state of awe.

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