Sunday, September 04, 2011

I Have a Little List

How much do the little lists we make, day in and day out, reveal about us? A grocery list, a to-do list, a list of what you want to sell at your garage sale, a list of books you want to read, a list of expenses. Think about it. If you kept all the little scraps of paper and Post-It notes, what would those little bits say about what is important - maybe not important, but necessary - to you?

The Morgan Museum & Library has a fascinating exhibition about Lists.

Yesterday, I got to spend a wonderful afternoon at the Morgan with friend Barbara from Atlanta, finally getting to drink in the newly-renovated opulence of J.P. Morgan's library, books, works of art, which were all off limits the last time I was there. Another exhibition explored medieval dress and fashion. (Did you know the two "horns" medieval women piled their hair into and draped with scarves were call "temples"? Me, neither.)

But it was the collection of lists from the Smithsonian that proved the most fun to poke through:

"The exhibition celebrates this most common form of documentation by presenting an array of lists made by a broad range of artists, from Pablo Picasso and Alexander Calder to H. L. Mencken, Eero Saarinen, Elaine de Kooning, and Lee Krasner. With examples such as Picasso's picks for the great artists of his age (Gris, Léger, etc.), H. L. Mencken's autobiographical facts ("I never have a head-ache from drink"), and Robert Smithson's collection of quotations about spirals, the items on view are intriguing, revealing, humorous, and poignant."

OK, so you can see where even the shopping list of a famous person might be interesting, but looking deeper, these lists really reveal a lot about the list-maker. Lists tell us about priorities. Priorities of time, money, attention, passion. Some of the lists are official - a list of teapots (in the form of drawings) for an art exhibition or an accounting of a sales receipt. Some are ordinary and personal - likes, dislikes, things to do today, things to buy at the grocery or hardware store. But all the lists boil down to priorities. What's important. What comes first. What must be done.

Are you a list-maker? I am. And even in this age of making lists and taking notes electronically on a smartphone, I still find a hand-written list the most efficient and easiest to access.

So, what do your "priorities" say about you? Mine obviously say I really need mayonnaise and milk. Priorities, dear. Priorities. Thank goodness, I have a little list.


Liz Hinds said...

My list would be very similar to yours, Mary. Best of all is the To Do list when I add things like clean teeth just so I can cross something off.

That sounds a fascinating exhibition.

Joy Des Jardins said...

Now that's exhibition of lists. I think I'd like that. I'm a HUGE list maker...for everything. God forbid I don't write things down so as not to forget them; but I really enjoy crossing them off. Hmmm, I'm sure there's some major analyzing to be done there... ~Joy