LOST OBJECTS (38)

By: Ben Greenman
November 8, 2019

One in an ongoing series of nonfiction stories about lost objects. In 2017, Project:Object’s Josh Glenn and Rob Walker asked 25 writers to tell us about a significant object they’d lost (or thrown away, or destroyed), then assigned these stories to 25 illustrators. The first Lost Objects series was such a hit with readers, and so fun for us to publish, that we’ve decided it deserves a sequel.

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Illustration by Clara Selina Bach for PROJECT:OBJECT

When I was a kid, I made a soup can. I don’t mean a can of soup. I made hundreds of those, usually after school, usually Campbell’s Tomato: empty contents of can into pot, add can of water, heat, serve. I spent hours looking at the label, red on top, white on the bottom, with the Paris International Exposition medallion a gold button in the middle. I couldn’t stop staring at it.

Though I wasn’t aware of it at the time, there was at least one other person with the same label obsession: Andy Warhol. Soon enough, I knew about Warhol, and his soup-can paintings. They made sense to me, not just as Pop Art, but as religious icons. Tomato soup was more than sustenance. It was something sacred.

Then, when I was about ten, the two worlds collided. I heard from my parents that Andy Warhol was coming to Miami, to do an event at the Lowe Art Museum. I decided that I would make a giant soup can and bring it to him. I went with my mom to the art store and bought a poster board, markers, and tape, and set about exactly replicating the label design, except two feet high. This took hours. I measured a real label, scaled up, and marked the poster board. I kept scrap paper handy to test out the markers and match the red and gold shades. I bent the board around into a cylinder, taped it, and voilà!

The day of the Warhol appearance, my parents helped me load the giant paper can into the car, and then unload it in the museum parking lot. I carried it into the lobby. Almost immediately, I spotted Warhol: white hair, thinner than I thought he’d be. I don’t remember if he spoke or read or just stood in the center of the room while people ringed around him, but I do remember that at some point I was standing near him, and then standing in front of him. He looked at the soup can and smiled. Then he signed it. My first thought, crazily enough, was annoyance. I had wanted to make a realistic soup can, and the real ones didn’t have Warhol’s signature scrawled across the label. Even the cans in his paintings didn’t. But within a few minutes, that impulse subsided. It wasn’t just that Warhol had signed a giant soup can for me. We had worked together on a giant soup can! I bore our collaboration safely through a throng of museumgoers and brought it home, where it sat on top of a bookshelf in my room until I went to college.

And then, it vanished. My parents sold our childhood home, and something happened. Maybe it got thrown away during packing. Maybe it deteriorated in storage or was eaten by rats. Maybe art thieves in ski masks hijacked the moving truck, stole it, and auctioned it for an unimaginable sum. No hard feelings, art thieves. Just send me my cut.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: See sidebar.

ABOUT THE ARTIST: Clara Selina Bach is a Copenhagen-based visual artist, illustrator and graphic designer. She studied at The Royal Academy of Fine Arts School of Design.

LOST OBJECTS 2: INTRODUCTION | Geoff Manaugh on MOROCCAN TRINKET (ill. Mariana Pita) | Joe Yonan on MACRAMÉ ART (ill. Theo Ellsworth) | Laura Lippman on LABYRINTH GAME (ill. Laura Didyk) | Ben Katchor on LUCITE CARRYING CASE | Neil LaBute on PICKLED OCTOPUS (ill. Disa Wallander) | Miranda Mellis on SEQUINED SCARF (ill. Adam Goldberg) | Chris Piascik on GENERAL HUSTLER BMX | Jenny Kroik on MISSING TOY PIECES | Anita Kunz on FLOWER NECKLACE | Debbie Millman on GLASS POODLE | Heather Kapplow on CERAMIC ARTWORK (ill. Matt Wuerker) | Lydia Millet on ROCKY HORROR NOVEL (ill. Berta Valló) | Ben Greenman on WARHOL CAN (ill. Clara Selina Bach) | Leah Hennessey on BATMAN RING (ill. Dean Haspiel) | Kathryn Davis on PRAYER CARD (ill. Dina Noto) | Mikita Brottman on PINK ELEPHANTS (ill. Sarah Williamson) | Nathaniel Rich on AUTOGRAPHED BASEBALL (ill. Ellen Rose) | Charles Glaubitz on TRACK SHOES | Seth on ENTERPRISE MODEL | Becky Stern on SKELETON SWEATER (ill. Monica Garwood) | Mark Dery on GRANDFATHER PHOTO (ill. Kelli Anderson) | Paola Antonelli on VINYL SKIRT (ill. Guillermo Meraz) | Sara Ryan on FINGER PUPPET (ill. Steve Lieber) | Alex Gerasev on KARMA PARKA | Margaret Wertheim on ECCENTRIC BOOK (ill. Armando Veve).

FETISHES: INTRODUCTION | Josh Foer on DEATH MASK | Beth Lisick on MURDERED-OUT KFC BUCKET | Christina Couch on LEECH ACTION FIGURE | Kenneth Goldsmith on THEWLIS SOCK | Abby Rapoport on MAGNATILES | & 20 MORE.

FOSSILS: INTRODUCTION | Allegra Huston on SKATAWAY JACKET | Kevin Obsatz on HOMEMADE NUNCHUKS | Ian Bogost on DESKTOP TELEPHONE | Jeff Lewonczyk on CHA-CHA JACKET SCRAP | Kelly Horan on VOLVO KEY | & 20 MORE.

FLAIR: INTRODUCTION | Cliff Kuang on ROLEX DATEJUST | Ethan Zuckerman on LAPTOP STICKERS | Ann Shoket on LEATHER JACKET | Kembrew McLeod on KEMBREW MERCH | Paola Antonelli on MERMAID TEARS | & 20 MORE.

LOST OBJECTS (vol. 1): INTRODUCTION | Kate Bernheimer on MULLET WIG (ill. Amy Evans) | Dan Piepenbring on COLOGNE (ill. Josh Neufeld) | Doug Dorst on STRATOCASTER (ill. John Holbo) | Paul Lukas on VANILLA BEAN (ill. Alison Bamcat) | Mimi Lipson on DODGE DART (ill. Mister Reusch) | & 20 MORE.

ILLICIT OBJECTS: INTRODUCTION | Kio Stark on PEEPSHOW TOKEN | Sari Wilson on TOMBSTONE PARTS | Annalee Newitz on CAR-BOMB REMNANT | Tito Bottitta on MOONINITE DEVICE | Eric Bennett on DIRTY MAGAZINE | & 20 MORE.

TALISMANIC OBJECTS: INTRODUCTION | Veda Hille on CROCHET SHEEP | Gary Panter on DINOSAUR BONES | Jami Attenberg on SELENITE CRYSTAL | Annie Nocenti on MINIATURE DICE | Wayne Curtis on CLOCK WINDING KEY | & 20 MORE.

POLITICAL OBJECTS: INTRODUCTION | Luc Sante on CAMPAIGN PAMPHLETS | Lydia Millet on PVC POLAR BEAR | Ben Greenman on MATCHBOX CAR | Rob Baedeker on PRESIDENTS PLACEMAT | L.A. Kauffman on WHEATPASTE POSTER | & 20 MORE.

SIGNIFICANT OBJECTS at HILOBROW: PROJECT:OBJECT homepage | PROJECT:OBJECT newsletter | PROJECT:OBJECT objects (Threadless shop — all profits donated to the ACLU) | POLITICAL OBJECTS series (1Q2017) | TALISMANIC OBJECTS series (2Q2017) | ILLICIT OBJECTS series (3Q2017) | LOST OBJECTS vol. 1 series (4Q2017) | FLAIR series (2Q2018) | FOSSIL series (4Q2018) | FETISHES series (2Q2019) | LOST OBJECTS vol. 2 series (4Q2019) | MOVIE OBJECTS series (2Q2020). ALSO SEE: SIGNIFICANT OBJECTS website | SIGNIFICANT OBJECTS collection, ed. Rob Walker and Josh Glenn (Fantagraphics, 2012) | TAKING THINGS SERIOUSLY, ed. Josh Glenn (Princeton Architectural Press, 2007) | TAKING THINGS SERIOUSLY excerpts.

Categories

Codebreaking, Read-outs

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