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Myth Salon: The Goods of the House: The Voices of Objects with Dr. Elizabeth Stewart

Register for the Myth Salon with Dr. Elizabeth Stewart:

On Thursday July 23 at 5pm, the Myth Salon is especially honored to bring “The Goods of the House: The Voice of the Object,” by Dr. Elizabeth Stewart. No matter how we interpret or engage human existence, from our earliest beginnings, we live in material culture. Material objects define, explain, and symbolize how we experience our present era’s culture. Each era has a different relationship with the material world, and objects bear that stamp. The pandemic caused our relationship to the “material” of our lives to change in significant ways. And we’re experiencing a double pandemic, one biological, one societal. Objects now take on a significance beyond their pre-pandemic stature. Will and I participated in a radio show with Elizabeth a few weeks ago – she is highly energized and will be a fascinating guide for us as we explore our relationships with our attachments and consumer habits, our personal identities through material expressions, and the timeless battle between style and substance.

Dr. Elizabeth Stewart is 50-year expert in the world of material culture. She is a scholar of both the marketplace and the symbolism of objects, and works daily in “applied material culture” as an appraiser of art and valuable personal property. A Santa Barbara businesswoman/scholar, Elizabeth’s doctoral dissertation “The Material Image: Why Collector’s Collect” focuses on the psychology of connoisseurs, hoarders, and those who entertain an object-fetish. She has appeared on Antique Road Shows, both televised and private, for investment firms, museums, and private collectors and artist’s organizations. A Certified Member of the Appraisers Association of America, she has spent a lifetime in the world of personal belongings, and in archives, libraries, and accession rooms of museums.


Some objects call out for attention. Some long to help others by allowing themselves to become a re-gift or donation. I hear such expressions of ‘objectification’ from many of my clients retired inside the walls of their homes these past three months. The things they carry with them on this Corona-journey inspire them to take action, expanding upon the ‘social responsibility’ philosophy of this unique era. At the end of this Myth Salon, you will find that social responsibility has long been thought to begin at home, involving all the things a home contains and signifies.

Objects – possessions in our habitations, our belongings, our personalty, possess unique voices that reflect our lives, speaks our memories, and create visual communication within our homes. For many months now, home has been our center, with all it contains; yet the objects in our homes, like us, want to leave for the streets of our neighborhoods. This is myth in action: this talk discusses why objects speak NOW with a new voice.

Those objects that have so steadfastly accompanied us at home, as we have built a life in a certain place, are now leaving home, entering the greater community, and doing so purposefully, for the good of the community. I am on the front line as objects are donated, because I am a certified appraiser of personal property and fine art in Santa Barbara, in practice for 30 years. My clients tell me they want their valued objects to do good for Santa Barbara, and I am guiding them to donate, to give away meaningful objects. The most poignant of this “freedom” movement amongst our objects is seen as they land on our streets, showing up randomly, to be ‘taken home.’

Hestia, who urges us to provide for the home, to care for the community as an extension of the home, is behind the object’s quest for service. My illustrated talk, “The Goods of the Home: The Voice of Objects,” discusses the role of our material possessions in a time of social fracture, even as their owners long for social connectivity in a disjointed time. Constriction has given our domiciles a new meaning, and that meaning is transferred, plaintively, to the community, as we witness objects bearing “free” signs and other poignant language, offered up for the taking on our streets.

Just as Hestia embodies the archetype of social connectivity and responsibility, we now witness objects moving out of the home and into the community, and, indeed, entering into the polis, accompanied by politically motivated chalked words that amplify the voice of the object on the sidewalk. A video accompanies this talk featuring recent images of objects on the street –with their chalk sign and banners.

The objects of our homes are emissaries of a new philosophy of social connection in a time of social distance.


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