August 2, 2021

Small Objects of My Affection

Sitting on my desk, where I can see them just beyond my computer, are these four small objects. I can't quite explain why, but they comfort me with their familiarity, their shapes, their stories, their unique character. Two of them are reproductions of ancient objects: the bowl with human feet is a favorite piece in the Met's Egyptian collection; the stag is copied from an early bronze age sculpture from Anatolia, which I bought on a marvelous visit to Turkey 20 years ago. The two birds are paperweights, a chicken acquired from an antique shop ages ago, and a dainty Lalique which was in my beloved mother's collection. I see the chicken pecking away and the little glass bird about to take flight. Embedded in them are memories and silent affection. All four of of my desk companions elicit a sense of life, in their still and quiet way.

I began to think about my relationship to the inanimate objects around my house after reading this beautiful and touching prose poem, "Fetish" by Pierre Reverdy, in the book published by Black Square Editions

A little doll, a good luck marionette, she struggles at my window, at the mercy of the wind. The rain has soaked her dress, her face, and her hands, which are fading. She's even lost a leg. But her ring remains, and with it her power. In winter she knocks at the windowpane with her little foot in its blue shoe, and she dances, dances from joy, from the cold, to warm her heart again, her good luck wooden heart. At night she raises her suppliant arms toward the stars. 

Yes, these objects are fetishes, in the sense of embodying magic. Even though the marionette is well-worn she still has her power, and she dances with joy. 

A little stuffed alligator, with his wide smile and waving arms, looks out at me over my bedside clock with humor and charm. His silly attitude reminds me not to take myself too seriously, to remember to relax and smile, so he's an excellent bedtime friend. I'm especially fond of this little creature because I found him in my mother's collection of tiny toys for her great-grandchildren. 

This salt and pepper set and the pieces to follow are antique shop and yard sale finds that I've had for many years. The shakers have the shape of the birds they are named after––kookaburras––with large beaks and squat shapes, but their bright colors are a vivid invention. When I look at them I think of the raucous laugh of these birds, which I was lucky enough to hear in the Australian outback many years ago; it's a startling sound.  

A delicate herd of tiny animals, not more than 2 inches high, sits on my mantle. I love their shapes, simple yet speaking of each individual animal. They have a poignant vulnerability, with straight pins inserted into their bodies where thin legs have broken off. 

With elegant curved form topped with a black beret, a perky fellow sits on a pull toy. The large red wheels give him motion, which he addresses with his upright stance. 

Being a person who likes machines––machines inspire my artwork––I had to include a little wooden toy truck in this post. I imagine it being given to a child or grandchild, who would love pulling or pushing it about. Ah, the shapes! Blue cylinder atop red cylinder, alongside yellow rectangle, all on a black rectangle studded with red circles; so beautifully abstract. 

Each of these objects, and many more around my house, are imbued with a spirit of their own. Like Reverdy's marionette, they have heart and joy, good luck and power; they are magical.


  1. I can relate to your affinity for these small special objects Altoon.
    I didn’t realise you had travelled in the Australian outback. That must have been an adventure !

  2. I had a small bronze stag which I bought in Turkey also. I was told it was the Hittite god. It had gigantic antlers and balanced on a marble cube base. It joined other spiritual objects on a windowsill altar. I gave it to a friend who helped me in time of need. -Cecelia

  3. How wonderfully charming! Thank you for a good way to start the day at the computer.

  4. This post really resonates with me. I too have a love of small yet meaningful objects that are thoughtfully scattered around my home. Thank you for articulating my "fetish."