“ELLIPSES…On telling the…” arises out of an event six years ago whilst on a train in which as I cleared away a plastic coffee cup from my table I found that within the inch of cold coffee that was left at the bottom of the cup were two gold rings - one a worn wedding band and another that had a light blue precious stone.
Intrigued as I am by way narratives are situated in life I have gradually come to realize that I could make my telling of this tale a framework for the responses of others, so that over time ‘Ellipses...telling the tale of the rings may become a collective story-making machine.
It started early one morning about six or seven years ago as I got ready to board the seven-thirty train to Plymouth. Or maybe it was before then when I bought myself a breakfast for the journey of hot coffee and a bagel in Paddington Station. The train was on an unusual platform I hadn’t been to before on the far side of the station. I climbed on-board to find the carriage still empty. The train had still not been cleaned from the previous journey, and so as I singled out my seat I noticed a plastic cup that had about one inch of cold coffee at its bottom, and which still had not been cleared from the folding tabletop beside my seat. Putting down my bags I decided to clear away the rubbish and so picked up the cup and walked to a nearby rubbish bin. As I carried it I heard something inside the cup rattle. I put it deep into the bin. A moment later, for reasons that to this day I cannot discern, I decided to retrieve it again. I held the cup in my hand and paused. I pushed my bare fingers into the cold coffee, and found I had fished out two gold rings, one a worn wedding ring, and another that had a number of tiny diamonds that formed a circle around light blue precious stone. This caused a series of little shocks in me, and after I returned to my seat to eat my bagel, for the rest of my journey, with the slightly bitter taste of coffee in my mouth, I nervously eyed the rings. It seemed to me I was left with a certain responsibility I felt I did not entirely understand of what to do with the rings. I kept them.
Some months later my Mother was visiting me, and she viewed the superstition with which I regarded the rings with some irreverence. You do know that whatever happened it wasn’t the rings fault? I would like to take this one with the blue stone, its pretty she said, and off she went with the engagement ring on her right hand. Two months later she visited me again, and shortly after her arrival she stood in the doorway to my bedroom where I had gone to sleep again, and then with some force she threw both rings at the head of my bed. Since I have been wearing those, I've crashed my car twice she said. Over the years I have never worn them, nor would I consider trying them on even for a moment.
Right now the rings are in my hallway. They are inside a tiny Japanese embroidered purse which has a big metal clasp, which was given to me as a present, which is again inside a purple felt lined sliver Indian box my sister gave me. I feel the rings need a lot of insulation, so that whatever happened to land them at the bottom a plastic coffee cup will not be contagious. I have had enough bad luck already, and so I want them insulated with affection and love. I rather like the exquisite tension they create sitting in my hallway, and now and again, just to check they are still there, I have the courage to open to box and look briefly inside.
For years I thought I would make a video of whatever I fantasized came before or after they were dropped into cold coffee, but I was always disappointed with whatever I came up with. Over the same time I have on occasion told the story of the rings, and each time I have found I get a strong reaction. Already there is an artist in Prague, Michal Pechoucek, who made his own video about the rings. Intrigued as I am by way narratives are situated in life I have gradually come to realize that I could make the implications of the act of the telling of this tale the basis for a new art work. Gradually this has become the basis of the “Ellipses...” project, which focuses on the act of telling a story as the basis to create a story-telling machine, forming a series of actions, photographs, videos, & a web-site, in which my description of my experience of ﬁnding the rings becomes the starting point for an array of anecdotes, tales, rumours & actions by others. To date this has been structured by a series of documented rendezvous’ in which I have met or talked with a range of people in order to tell them the tale of the rings. In return the people I have met agreed to exchange questions & further stories with me. This process has been documented through through ﬁlm, video, photography, & drawing, which have all gone onto to form the basis of this growing web- site. On this site you will ﬁnd evidence of rendezvous’ that have taken place, including those with my sister in Greenwich, a clairvoyant in Ireland, the state archivist for Nevada, & an old treasure-hunter from Cape Cod. I have found the fresh stories exchanged have touched on moments of trauma & loss encountered through personal & social conﬂict, as well as stories centering on people & objects lost or rejected during war & political up-heaval. If it is impossible for me to meet you in person, I have asked other people to tell the story of the rings in my place. Maybe one of them sent you this text. They in turn may tell others, as you might yourself, so that it might be possible for the story of the rings to spread far and wide, but this is also the democracy of story-telling. In turning the act of story-telling into my creative act, I know I also relinquish authorship of my story to the people who hear it, and who may in their own re-telling change it a little according to their own contexts, or want to respond in some way.
And so now I will show you the rings......
I think they are not expensive, and the wedding band has been worn for so many years it has lost its perfect circle. I think the light blue stone of the second ring is called an aquamarine, and if you look closely you can see that the style of both rings is rather old fashioned, not the kind of rings a young woman will have worn.
I call this project Ellipses, as the word ‘ellipses’ means a perfect circular shape that has been pulled into an oval through viewing a circle in perspective. It is also the case that the perfect circle of a gold ring responds to the life pattern of the body of its’ wearer, so that over the course of time it too is pushed & pulled out of shape inevitably ending up as an oval. Within this project this oval also becomes a resonant void. The plural of an ellipse is ellipses, which by chance is also phonetically, with the difference of the single letter ‘I‘, is a word that means to leave out (the word ‘ellipsis’). This letter ‘I’ also parallels the ‘I’ that is the missing subjective presence of the previous wearer of the rings. An ellipsis is the omission of a few letters, a word, phrase, sentence, or more that is considered to be superﬂuous, or able to be understood. It also may indicate a pause or passage of time.
This omission or pause is indicated by a mark or series of marks, such as three dots or asterisks, such as these..., which are also included in the title of this project. I am interested to know what to make of the ellipses inside the space of these rings which was ﬁlled by the person who once worn them, probably for many years. This void troubles and fascinates me. "
B&W/ Colour Digital video 18 minutes.
PAL 48 Mhz stereo sound
‘Ellipses...telling the tale of the rings, Greenwich, August 2007’ is the first of a series of new works from the project ‘Ellipses...’. This project focuses on the act of telling a story as the basis to create a story-telling machine forming a series of actions, photographs, videos, and a web-site in which Creamer’s description of her experience of finding a wedding and engagement ring in a cup of cold coffee on a train becomes the starting point for an array of anecdotes, tales, rumors and actions by others. In this video work, which is the first of a series of 'Ellipses Rendezvous’', she meets with Caroline Creamer in Greenwich Park, London, during August 2007.
The tale of the rings has been told by a Norwegian based artist Şahzene Nilhan Durmuşoğlu Johansen to an audience at the Kunstnernes Hus, Oslo, Norway, on May 24th, 2009. This has happened as part of the ‘Alyans’ Project by Norwegian artist Kjetil Berge.
Letters to those I met were given details of a rendezvous to met with me, in order to exchange our tales of the rings. Here is an invitation to Caroline Creamer, from 2007.
It led to the video work Ellipsis...telling the tale of the rings, Greenwich, 2007.
The were taken of the rings in 2006, on a camera phone.
Letters to those I met were given details of a rendezvous to met with me, in order to exchange our tales of the rings. Here is an invitation to 'Liz', a clairvoyant in Ireland, from 2007.
Liz is a clairvoyant, doing tarot and angel readings, workshops and Reiki. She lives in Northern Ireland and her services have been used by other members of my family, who rate her very highly. I organized a rendezvous with her for Tuesday September 18th 2007 at 2pm.
Liz agreed to let me video our meeting on condition that I only film her hands and the table on which were placed the tarot cards, crystals, a crystal ball and the rings. As with other rendezvous’ I first told Liz the tale of the rings, and then gave her the rings to respond to.
Liz began with some rituals - something with the tarot cards and a crystal establishing the conditions of doing a reading of the rings. She then went onto to say that the rings belonged to a woman from an unhappy marriage. This woman had had a long long depression and her husband, who travelled a bit and was a great talker but was privately very controlling, would sometimes in later years hit her. There was love in this marriage at first, and the engagement ring was “the nicest thing she ever had”. But the marriage was “like a lion and lamb getting together” and soon the love went and she felt like she was “living in a tin box”. The husband was flirtatious rather than a womanizer but was nevertheless her great passion until her confidence sank and sank. But gradually she began to see she deserved better than this life she had lived for far too long. Her eventual flight on the train and putting those rings into the cup of coffee was very cathartic for her and “was one of the most important moments in her life”. Apparently she flew to France, where she now lives doing something creative but for less money. “She has less money but is much more fulfilled”. Apparently she has dark hair and is now being treated like a lady.
Hosted by Kjetil Berge and the Alyans project - Sunday, 24 May 2009
Ellipses..telling the tale of the rings at the Kunstnernes Hus, Oslo, Norway
The tale of the rings will be told by Norwegian - Turkish storyteller Nilham Durmusoglu Johansen before an invited audience. This event will be filmed, forming the basis for a future video work.
Paralleling this will be
Building Rome in a Day, a one-day sculpture by Judith Dean
W17, Kunstnernes Hus, Oslo
Studio 2, Kunstnernes Hus
Philomena Maxwell - The Black Pouch at Crockawaddy
Wednesday, 25 July 2007
I have read your rings story on this computer and I thoughtmaybeit might havea different twist.
When I was a nosyteenagerand poking about in crockawaddy , I found my mother's ring in black pouch type purse in the hole in the wall. Nobody gave it to me so I took it with me anyway ,
My intention was to return it. However, friends who were younger than me thought they ought to take it to Dublin to have it valued. I never got it back.
Later I found out that these two people had got married. I was told that ,
Perhaps they hadused my ring(your grandmother's ring) (sic- my grandmother died when my mother was a five year old girl) for their wedding,
Don't KNOWthat of course ;;;;???
But maybe they came to England and she died young.
She mayhave directed him to leave the ring where you would find it How’s that for mystery?????????
p. s. just seen the 30 days and 30 nights slide show on your other website , bit confused and rather scared //////////////////?????
p.p.sDid you know that once as your Father walked past a building of a psychiatric ward in a hospital he was visiting when suddenly a mans wedding band came flying out the window and landed right at his feet! He kept it too."
Sunday 5th August, 2007
David Stone is an American who has a passionate hobby of metal detecting on beaches and in the ocean in many parts of the world. He has found many items ranging from generic off-the-shelf wedding rings to custom made pendants, rings and other jewelry with unique engravings so that he has gradually accrued a private and growing collection of lost and discarded objects. In a desire that it might be possible to return these items to their rightful owner David has set up the web-site http://www.ilostmyjewelry.com in the hope that someone looking for their lost jewellery might by chance happen on his site and by a carefully worked out series of questions visitors to the site can identify themselves as an owner of one of his objects.
I talked to David by telephone between his home in on Cape Cod, Massachusetts and London on August 5th 2007.
Anne-Marie Creamer: Thank-you David for participating in this experiment
David Stone: No problem it sounds very interesting.
AMC: One of the things that really fascinated me David is that both you and I had both found jewellery, in my case particularly wedding rings, and we had approached the problem in different ways of then what to do with our finds and so I wondered if you would tell me a bit more about your web-site – about why you’ve set it up.
DS: Sure, I started metal detecting when my wife and I were going into semi-retirement. She likes to lie on the beach and I can lie on the beach for about ten minutes and then I’m ready to go home so I took up the hobby of metal detecting from a local friend here. And I take the detector with me when I’m travelling to go to warm climates in the Caribbean, and I started collecting what turned out to be a large percentage of men’s wedding rings. I mean I find a lot of junk and a lot of coins and a lot of different jewellery and of all the nice jewellery by and large it’s always men’s wedding rings.
AMC: Men’s wedding rings yes?
DS: Yes. And so we would have fun speculating on whether they saw some-one in a nice bikini walk by and decided to pitch the ring or they were getting divorced and decided to throw the ring away or what probably happens is that men aren’t used to wearing jewellery and so they go into the water and don’t find out they’ve lost the ring until much later.
DS: It was a lot of fun and very exciting for me to find such nice stuff but it has absolutely no value to me
AMC: So it’s not the value of the wedding rings themselves?
DS: No not at all, it’s more the excitement of finding stuff. The wedding rings - one of the nicest rings I found was on the web-site was one with a bunch of diamonds in it - it’s a lady’s platinum wedding ring with diamonds.
AMC: ahh ha.
DS: Because of the engraving on the inside. It was the first one I found with an engraving and I thought this is really going to mean something to somebody.
AMC: Because it was customized?
DS: Right. And I went to a jeweller and said just for the heck of it you know are these diamonds real and what it is worth? As an example, I asked about selling aplain gold band and they said to me you know if you’re looking to sell it I’m not going to give you a lot of money. I’m going to give you basically the scrap value of the metal so if you’ve got a one gram ring in gold you know its $600 an once, it works out to $21.00 a gram and I’ll give you about $30 for it. (Assuming a 3 gm weight.)
DS: So it didn’t have it’s monetary value for me but I certainly had the feeling somebody was going to be missing this ring a lot more than I would get enjoyment out of it and I certainly didn’t need the $30 for the ring.
AMC: Hmm, hmm
DS: So I started going to the resorts where people might have gone when they lost it. And I started to discover erm… either people didn’t call the police to turn it in or they didn’t call at the hotel as they didn’t know where they lost it
DS: They knew they lost it in the ocean and it would never get found and if somebody did find it, who was going to turn it in.
DS: So it became very difficult. And a lot of the lost and found places in hotels that said ‘give it to me and I’ll make sure it gets back to owner’ and I refused to do that.
AMC: Why is that?
DS: I knew if I gave it to them they would never get back to the owner and the guy was going to give it to his wife the next day or keep it or …
AMC: That’s the same suspicion everywhere. Over here too that’s the same.
DS: And I wanted the enjoyment from the piece - seeing some-ones face when they finally get this back.
AMC: Has that ever happened? Has the web-site ever successfully been a way to return a wedding ring to somebody?
DS: To date no. There is a picture of a couple with myself on the web-site…
AMC: I noticed
DS: But that’s because he happened to see me walking up the beach detecting and told me that they had recently just lost a ring like a few hours ago and everybody had been searching the beach and that they couldn’t find it
DS: And I’ve returned rings two times that way from people who had seen me doing it but so far and that’s why I want publicity for the web-site because if people knew that they, you know, that this site existed there would be a chance, now it’s a very small chance (they would returned). I think have about eighty rings…
AMC: A lot!
DS: Twenty of them are customized to the point where somebody could identify it.
DS: If it’s a plain old gold band then it’s very difficult for somebody to say ‘O that was mine’ or in any way identify it but with the customized ones that would be fairly easy.
AMC: One of the things that interest me is that there’s something about finding wedding rings more than any other form of jewellery which – and I think you might recognize this – it seems to leave the finder with a sense of responsibility that somehow you’re meant to have some moral fibre, you’re meant to do something to return it and I’ve come across lots of stories that even of some-body who found a ring and they kept it for years and eventually even after their death it got returned and their sons or daughters have felt some need to explain that yes they would have found some way to return it if they could so its strange with wedding rings that there is this sense of a responsibility, which seems to be moral in tone, and like you I have struggled, well in my case I think my ring wasn't lost, I think it was discarded, but like you there’s something about finding a wedding ring more than any other kind of jewellery that makes you feel you’re meant to do something about the find. Is there anything you recognize around that?
DS: Well I do, but if we look at this from a purely scientific point of view I've spent most of my time metal detecting in the water, literally in water..
DS: I also go to places that are known for honeymooners so in a way I think I’m pre-selecting that I will probably find more rings than anything else. Now on this last trip to Saint Martin I found nineteen rings and five chains and a bunch of other nice jewelry and bracelets and stuff and it’s the most I’ve ever found in a period of time. I don’t think in like five years I’ve found five chains and all of a sudden it’s five chains this time. A lot of it depends on the destination, if I go to a singles place I’d probably find less wedding rings and more chains.
AMC: So it’s the location that determines it for you?
DS: Yes I think a lot of it. I don’t know if it’s fair to say that most of what's lost is wedding rings, perhaps its not so accurate. I think if I were to set up all of the jewelry I’ve found it’s probably almost as many earrings, which are predominately going to be female. And they’re not good ones, I haven’t found a good diamond yet, I found a lot of glass stud earrings. And look you know my heart jumps when I think I’ve just found a five or ten carat you know diamond. But it’s glass. So its normally earrings and earpieces that I’ve found.
AMC: But what are the pieces of jewelry that whet your imagination the most then? Would it be a pendant, or a watch, or are the wedding rings the things that trigger your imagination about what was the scenario in which it got lost?
DS: Emm… It would probably be… well I don’t know that I would have a particular favorite as I think the most likely scenario would be that they were in the water and their fingers got cold or they got knocked over by a wave. Your find is particularly exciting because as you say it must have been discarded and what was going through this person’s mind when they were on that train. That just opens so much imagination that it’s fascinating. The stuff that I find I think it’s pretty boring. I think people just lose it because why do they go swimming with this stuff in the first place. The other things that I find are like cell phones, batteries, cameras, watches, you know things that are not meant to be in the water. So I think its just carelessness on most of these people’s parts. One of the conditions I put when I find something for somebody, that I told this couple, I said I‘m goingfind it and there’s going to be three conditions. One, means you take a picture and send it to me, I’ve since bought a digital camera so I can do it now, but I want a picture of you and the jewelry on the web-site and I would like you to tell anybody you can about the web-site. If I ship it to you - i.e., you found the lost piece on my website and identified it - I’m going to ask you to reimburse me for the shipping and insurance. If you want to make a donation to the web-site you may but its not required. And the final thing that you’ll have to guarantee me is that you will not be stupid enough to wear this thing in the water again. But that I think is the gist of it but people are going to do whatever they want to do. But this particular lady was funny because she came over to me right after I started searching and she told me we’ve only been married less than a week and he lost the ring already! Are we still married (she kidded) ? I told her that if he threw the ring away, it was totally up to her ! (laughing)
AMC: So if you had found my wedding rings what would you have done with them, would you have put them on your web-site as well or would you have thought that this person doesn’t want them? My wedding rings also are not expensive, they’re just cheap rings but they are interesting, but what would you have done with them as you’re much more of a connoisseur than I am of finding these kinds of items.
DS: Well, although I mainly don’t get to do it I do want to try to give them back to the owner and if I couldn’t, in your case, I would either pawn them, or sell them or give them to someone. For my finds, I have two daughters. They occasionally ask if they can have this one - it’s pretty or that one and I say well when after I die and if nobody's ever claimed them then you can have them all but not before.
AMC: Oh, so for you your collection has to be intact?
DS: Well this does for now, and some of the more common rings I just can’t think what to do with them. My wife and I have thought that when the girls get married, well for now they’re twenty-one and eighteen, but you don’t know, then we’ll let them melt them down and they can make a customized new ring with them.
AMC: And so find a way to make them new again.
DS: And there’s also the fact that they may not like these wedding rings that they don’t want to do that with these rings and so I’ll take the rings, I’ll sell them, I’ll melt them down or I’ll let the estate deal with it after I’m gone, something like that. I just have a lot of fun showing people.
AMC: So when people come to visit you do you have a special place you keep this collection of lost or abandoned wedding rings? I’m wondering how you introduce your collection to your friends.
DS: I have a wooden jewelry box that I bought from some-body that does beautiful jewelry boxes on the internet, and I just started putting stuff in there and I started to fill it up and for Christmas this year my wife got me two more jewelry boxes. So we have some cousins come in from Arizona and they have a thirteen year old daughter and they brought a thirteen year old friend of the daughter and so the two girls wanted to go metal detecting and so I sort of showed them and they were like well what kind of stuffcan we find and so pulled this out and said I just said well open the drawers and this is what you can find and their eyes got really wide and it was like Wow! I love this one and this one and this one and each of them had different taste. They weren’t interested in the platinum diamond or gold wedding rings - it was more the little two dollar ring you’d get in a silversmith shop, the goth rings. And that was kind of interesting. But people are just blown away when they see the kind of stuff, they just can’t imagine that I found this stuff just walking up and down and looking in the water.
AMC: So this is a form of collection for you, a kind ofprivate collection of interesting objects each with a story behind them?
DS: Yes. And one of my favourite pieces is I think on my web-site. It’s a little glass humming bird that’s like two or three inches long. It looks like a little miniature stained glass window. And it doesn’t have any place on it that looked like it would have been a pendant. It looks like it may have come from a boat, that some person had this little charm on their boat and that their boat blew over in a hurricane and I would surmise well how did that get in the water, kinda like you with the wedding rings in the coffee cup. For me the rings being in the ocean there’s not much of a story that I put behind it like they got knocked over by a wave, they got cold or you know it slipped off, but the hummingbird is just one of my favourite things as its just so interesting.
AMC: And a surprising find. I mean that’s the reason its interesting that it shouldn’t be where you found it. Its an incongruous find.
DS: Right just like your rings and that’s why I think its such a spectacular find. It really puts shivers on me when I think you were going to walk away and something just said Anne-Marie go back to the trash can
AMC: Intuition! Yes yes indeed. Well I’m really interested to see this interesting collection that you’ve made and that in many ways its become something you protect and you’re the guardian of these things until such a time that the collection grows too large or that you bequeath it to your daughters. It’s a really interesting story behind it for you and I’m wondering what is it about the metal detecting, like what kind of find might you be secretly hoping to find with your metal detector? I’m wondering about your continuing motivation, that you’re hoping that you’ll someday find something really special and the collection will then be complete.
DS: Some old coins, I would love to find old coins. I found a couple but they’re not in good shape, not in a collectable shape but to me they’re far more interesting. Part of me says I would love to find a beautiful diamond bracelet. I wouldn’t sell it, I wouldn’t pawn it, I wouldn’t do anything to it, but it’s just something I haven’t found that I would like to find. My motivation is that it gives me something to do, it keeps me out in the fresh air, it keeps me busy. We would go away on a Caribbean vacation and I would only want to go for like five days as because after that I was just going stir crazy. I don’t like reading a whole lot, I don’t like being out in the sun and doing nothing. And now that we’ve found the metal detecting we go away for two weeks, three weeks, fours weeks, five weeks at a time and I’m not ready to come home at the end of it. It’s just very exciting for me. It’s almost like gambling, and I love to gamble, I love black jack in a casino. It’s the same as in a casino I might not win this hand, and I might not win the next hand but I bet if I stay one more hand I might win that one. And when I’m in the water it’s like I haven’t found anything today and I’ve walked two miles up and down this beach but I bet if I walk up one more time - who knows!
AMC: Yes! So you’re going to continue doing this aren’t you for as long as you’re physically able? Thecollection will never be complete.
DS: Right! You got it! As long as I am physically able I’ll continue with this the rest of my life. Yes. It’s a lot of fun.
AMC: That’s fantastic David. We’ve both found very different ways to deal with this question of what to do with treasure if you find it. Thank-you.
DS: Thank-you too Anne-Marie and good luck!
David’s web-site can be found by clicking here http://www.ilostmyjewelry.com
Ringing down the curtains
I think she was maybe ringing down the curtain, if you see my meaning....see below.” Eugene Curran.
Ringing down the curtain, Meaning Bring something to an end.
The original and literal meaning of this phrase was 'to lower or close the stage curtain at the end of a theatrical performance'. Could this phrase just be a corruption of 'bring down the curtain'? It seems not. This term derives from the practice of ringing a bell to signal the time to close the curtains. The similarity between 'ring' and 'bring' is
just coincidence. Curtains were also 'rung up' and this practice remains well-known to theatre-goers as 'the bell' which is rung to signal that a play is soon to begin or resume after an interval.
The earliest citation I can find for the phrase is from the celebrated English actor David Garrick, in his 1772 farce A Peep Behind the Curtain:
"Pray be so good as to ring down the curtain, that we may rehearse in form."
The figurative use, which just refers to the end of something, began use in the early 20th century. For example, this piece from Sheila Kaye-Smith's biography John Galsworthy:
Ring down the curtain on
Bring something to an end, as in We'd best get to that grand old hotel before they ring down the curtain on it. This idiom alludes to the old practice of signaling that a theater curtain be lowered at the ring of a bell. Similarly, ring up the curtain on refers to a bell rung to begin a performance and came to mean starting anything, as in Their
contribution rang up the curtain on the fund drive. The figurative use of these terms dates from the early 1900s.
Guy Louis Rocha, CA
State Archivist, Nevada State Library & Archives
Wednesday, 1 August 2007
Maybe you will find the following interesting.
Guy Louis Rocha, CA
Nevada State Library & Archives
Guy Rocha has written several texts on the popular mythology of women throwing their wedding rings into the Truckee River from a bridge in town of Reno, Nevada. As Rocha describes “the divorce rate was high in Reno, and other county seats in Nevada, because of the migratory divorce trade. It was not so much the locals getting divorced, rather people from all over the USA travelling to Nevada to get a divorce due to the state's liberal divorce laws, arguably the most liberal in the nation from the early 1900s until the 1960s. Beginning in the 1960s, other states began liberalizing their divorce laws and the migratory divorce trade in Reno and elsewhere dwindled to virtually nothing by the 1970s”. Throwing weddings rings into the Truckee River appears to have been a ritualistic act of exorcism and has featured in films like John Huston’s The Misfits, so that over the years myth and reality have got hopelessly, fascinatingly confused.
Below is a text that appeared in on-line newsletter for the Nevada State Library and Archive, Department for Cultural Affairsin 2001. This textis quoted with kind permission from Guy Rocha.
"Traditionally, divorceescoming to Reno to take advantage of the city's easy divorce laws threwtheir wedding rings into the river," According to the Reno Gazette-Journal's "Nevada Living" supplement (April 2001). "The trend may have started-or been fuelled by-a scene in the 1961film 'Misfits' in which Marilyn Monroe considered tossing her ring intothe Truckee."
Some writers arguethat ring tossing in what was once known as "The Divorce Capital ofthe World" is a myth. Others claim the legendary ritual began as a publicity stunt that may have been imitated by divorcees. People havebeen debating for years whether dropping wedding rings into the TruckeeRiver is a long-standing tradition. Any trend started long before"The Misfits," the short story and screenplay written by playwright ArthurMiller following his Reno divorce in 1956 and subsequent marriage to Marilyn Monroe.
An early account ofring throwing can be traced to Cornelius Vanderbilt, Jr.'s first novel, Reno(1929). A journalist, the great-great grandson of railroad baronCornelius Vanderbilt wrote the book after a divorce from his first wifein Reno in 1927. Vanderbilt mayhave read the earliest known account of throwing wedding rings into the Truckee River in the pamphlet Reno! “It Won’t Be Long Now” NINETY DAYS ANDFREEDOM (1927) while awaiting his divorce.
On page 24 ofVanderbilt’s novel, one of the principal characters, John GilbertBerkeley (J.B.), while standing on a bridge compares the Ganges andTruckee rivers. India's Ganges washes away Hindu sins and the Truckee is supposed to cleanse one's marital past. According to J.B., "the moment a divorcee is granted herfinal decree of freedom, she hurries to the river with her friends-andoften the man she is to marry on the morrow-and standing upon the bank, and with some sort of prayer beginning: 'Here goes nothing," shethrows the wedding ring into the enveloping waters. They say there ismore gold now in the river's bed than was taken out by all the placerminers of the early days."
One may never know ifVanderbilt actually saw someone dispose of a ring, heard the claim, orread an account. However, placer mining in the Truckee in and around Renois pure fiction.
"I want to tellyou about wedding rings," wrote "Patsy" in a letterpublished in the Chicago Daily News (March 26, 1930). Sheidentified herself as a "temporary sojourner" in Reno. "Every woman who gets a divorce has an unnecessary one and some ofthe men, too. Those who have a sentimental streak and want to put anartistic finish to their Reno adventure step over to the Truckee River, astone's throw from the courthouse, and standing on the bridge over theplace where the river is deepest, hurl the shining circlet into thetumbling torrent and beg it to roll down to the sea."
The entire lettersmacks of hype, however "Patsy" probably visited "TheBiggest Little City in the World" to compose the copyrighted accountof her stay. She needed a geography lesson. The Truckee River flowsnortheast and terminates in Pyramid Lake and not the sea.
The Reno DivorceRacket (1931), includes a photograph of Mrs. Marjorie MacArthur and Mrs. Dorothy Foltztaking the "six-week cure" and "tossing their discardedrings into the river from Reno's 'Bridge of Sighs' . . . as they follow the custom of the liberated." Another photo on the same page depictsthe Riverside Hotel, opened in 1927 after the state legislature reducedthe length of residency from 6 months to 3 months. The photo captionreads in part: "Just a step to the judge for your 'Liberty bond' andthen you kiss the pillar, and run for the 'Bridge of Sighs' to throw your wedding ring to the fishes!"
Life Magazine (June 21, 1937) ran a featurestory on "Reno Divorce Seekers" and disputed any tradition ofthrowing wedding rings into the Truckee River. "A popular Reno mythhas it that upon receiving a decree a divorcee rushes out, embraces andkisses the Washoe County Courthouse pillar, dashes on 200 feet to theTruckee River, [and] throws in her wedding ring," according to the Lifereporter. "As every Reno citizen knows, she does no such thing. To depict the legend as a preliminary to blasting it, Life's photographerhad to stage the scene on the front cover."
The Lifeexpose did not squelch the myth. The movie Reno was released in1939 and a divorcee throws her wedding ring into the river in an openingscene.
Journalist Max Miller, whoauthored the book Reno (1941), claimed that the Truckee River ringtoss "originated a few years ago by some photographers for aneastern picture magazine. The story along with the pictures caught on somehow, so that today visitors believe it, even a few divorcees believeit. At no time have I seen a divorcee throw her wedding ring away in sucha manner."
American Weekly (June 11, 1944) describedauthor Inez Robb hanging around the Virginia Street bridge in hopes of glimpsing a wedding ring toss. "However, after the first fruitlessweeks, I began to lose faith in the legend," bemoaned Robb. She wasthen told the last and maybe the first person to throw a ring into theriver was British film actress Margot Grahame, in Reno for a divorce in1936. The event was staged for a photographer using a ring purchased froma discount store. "The legend still persists," Robb noted, "but the rippling surface of the Truckee isn't constantly disturbedby showers of once-cherished bands of wedlock."
According to a United Press wire service story, datelined Reno, September 19, 1950, "A famous Reno legend that Nevada divorcees celebrate their new freedom by hurling their wedding rings into the Truckee River was demolished Sunday." The story went on to note, that after cleaning the river in downtown Reno, fifty Junior Chamber of Commerce volunteers with high hopes "of turning up some worthwhile loot" found only one wedding ring with the stone missing amid all the debris.
Whether or not therewas actually a homegrown tradition of throwing wedding rings into theTruckee River, many persons believed it to be true. The"tradition" may have been fakelore originating in promotional literature, then reinforced many times by publicity gimmicks. While not commonpractice, real wedding rings found their way into the Truckee becausesome divorcees acted on what they believed to be a tradition."
(Original version in SierraSage, Carson City/Carson Valley, Nevada, September 2001)
Quoted with kind permission from the Nevada State Library and Archive, Department for Cultural Affairsin 2001 and Guy Rocha.
Leading on from its' premier outing at the Kunstnernes Hus, Oslo, Anne-Marie Creamer is showing a video from her on-going project 'Ellipses...telling the tale of the rings'.
INTERRUPTED CORRESPONDENCE/ VICE-VERSA: FIVE YEARS FRAGMENTS.
FIVE YEARS/ JTG Project 09*
14.10.09 > 01.11.09
JTG PROJECT 09 IS A PROJECT HOSTED BY JAMES TAYLOR GALLERY
Open Monday to Sunday 12 - 6pm (closed Monday 26th & Tuesday 27th October)
Private View 16th October 6 - 10pm
Live press by The Ladies Of The Press* at the Private View.
JAMES TAYLOR GALLERY
THE CENTRE OF THE UNIVERSE
The James Taylor Gallery has invited six local artist-run organisations to each occupy a room within their vast Victorian warehouse. JT Project 09 is: seven distinct temporary exhibitions hosted by James Taylor Gallery, independently organised by Fieldgate Gallery, Five Years, James Taylor Gallery, Katie Guggenheim, Supine Studios, The Centre of the Universe and Transition Gallery. Spread over two floors of a huge building, the project provides the opportunity to see shows by these peer organisations simultaneously. JT Project 09 could be: an opportunity for new collaborations, a series of compromises, a grand experiment.
Sunday, 2 September 2007
The ring throwing scene in The Misfits, with actresses Marilyn Monroe and Thelma Ritter after Monroe’s fictional divorce in which she considers throwing her wedding ring into the Truckee River in Reno, Navada, USA. Directed by John Huston in 1961, screenplay by Arthur Miller.
In Prague in 2004 I told Czech artist Michal Pěchouček the tale of the rings during a visit to Prague. We had gone to local Czech pub around the corner from the Jiri Svestka Gallery where Pěchouček had just done a performance of his feted work ‘Collector’. After I finished the tale of the rings Pěchouček declared “I now have a beetle running around in my brain. I will make a video from this, but don’t worry what I will do will be very different to what you would do”. He was right and inspired by the tale he later made the video ‘Playtime’ (Přestávka) in 2005, which was shown in Prague at the Jiri Svestka Gallery in Prague later that year.