By K. Samantha Sigmon

Image: Elise Raborg, Reverence (For a Dog) – ceramic, acrylic paint, oil paint, 55″ x 26″ x 30″; Cat Whisker Collection – wood, velvet, thread, cat whiskers, 8.5″ x 6.5″, photo by K. Samantha Sigmon

Encased in a vitrine on the second-floor guest rooms of 21c Museum Hotel Bentonville is a tender display by Elise Raborg—one that imbues objects with the significance of relics, ultimately tugging at heartstrings.

Reverence (For a Dog), a ceramic sculpture of stacked pink couches, and Cat Whisker Collection, a small velvet wall piece holding cat whiskers, form an odd juxtaposition with their surroundings. Reverence stands in for a real thing now gone, molded with the weight of its owners and full of memories. It looks dingy and loved and includes lived-in details like stains and pet hair—a homage to an object of furniture that would never fit with boutique hotel aesthetics. It sits enclosed in glass and wood, appearing once functional and now alone, untouched.

A smaller couch sits on top of the other, like a child in the lap of a parent or a pet in the crook of one arm. Their relationship allows guests to make their own narrative; they can tell different personal stories. Together with the cat whisker relic above, the artworks emote the bittersweetness of moments past, of what remains when a beloved object, pet, or person is gone from your life. The every-day will become a precious artifact of a moment to which you can no longer return. Ultimately, these works remind us what we really place importance in–the “worthless” items that we live our lives around, that define our lived experience for a short time, and become precious through impermanence.

K. Samantha Sigmon is a 2018-2019 Oklahoma Art Writing & Curatorial Fellow.