Lost a glove in Baltimore this winter? It might now be part of a public art installation created by multidisciplinary artist Bruce Willen in Druid Hill Park.
Willen’s Library of Lost Gloves and Lost Loves displays gloves missing their other halves on the spires of a wrought iron fence. Attached are sweet, funny notes, which Willen refers to as “one liners.” He thinks of them like the first sentence to a short story.
“I’ve always been very fascinated by these gloves, just as artifacts,” he says. “I think they have this really beautiful, unique personality to them and a lot of visual character. I would imagine the person who must have dropped this and make up these stories in my head about them.”
During the start of the pandemic, Willen began going on frequent walks to explore different areas of Baltimore. On his strolls, he started encountering more and more lost gloves. As he became more aware of the orphaned gloves, he decided to collect them.
“Last year I had this idea that it would be cool to take some of these sad gloves that had been lost and orphaned and create some kind of public installation with them,” Willen says.
Willen collected gloves on his walks on and off last winter, and focused more seriously on the project this winter. He created the piece just before Valentine’s Day, and started with about 50 gloves. Over the past few weeks, some have gone missing and some new ones have been added.
“Maybe there’s a chance some people will get reunited with a glove that they lost months ago,” Willen says.
According to Willen, passersby seem intrigued when coming across the art installation. People are stopping to read the notes on the gloves. Visitors have also added about seven new gloves to the project and written their own notes. One viewer even added the missing red glove of a pair to the collection.
Since creating the Library of Lost Gloves and Lost Loves, Willen has received a lot of positive feedback on social media. It has even allowed him to connect with “glove aficionados” across the country, he says.
“I think it definitely taps into a vein of other people finding interest in these kind of weird urban phenomena,” Willen says.
Compared to Willen’s other installations, the glove collection is a quick, lighthearted, and more temporary piece. Most of his other projects have more permanent qualities and can sometimes even take years to complete. Willen hopes that the glove project will hold up until the weather gets warmer, but if not, he’s fine with that too.
“It’s not something that’s meant to be there permanently,” he says, “but I think it’d be cool if it came back next winter, and other people wanted to contribute.”
Willen founded Public Mechanics, an experiential design studio in 2020. According to Willen, Public Mechanics focuses specifically on creating work for public and cultural spaces. This includes public art projects, but also client-driven design work that relates to public space.
Despite the challenges of the pandemic, Willen says it was the perfect time to start.
“Like everyone, I had been in the process of reevaluating my work, my work-life balance, and my professional focus,” Willen says. “I’ve been able to be a little more flexible… and really start to shape and hone the type of clients and projects that I want to be doing.”
Willen is currently working on a long-term project titled Ghost Rivers. It traces the hidden path and history of a buried urban stream in Baltimore. The project will be both a public art and history project, addressing issues like climate change and ecology. Willen hopes to announce more about the project later this year.