If I divided up my time since I was born, I have spent a good portion of it making paintings, and  I kept everything. I have a storage unit [1]  full of artwork. 
When I worked as studio assistant for abstract expressionist painter Marguerite Saegesser, she would periodically plan a day of artwork destruction, I guess the preferred term for it is winnowing. 

the week before, she would give me the catalog cards of work she had selected for destruction and I would go through her storage and line up all the work she had selected. She had a beautiful system of numbering and cataloging her work. each piece had a card with information about the piece and a photo attached. 

some of her paintings were over ten feet across requiring specially designed racks in the large studio building she had built behind her house. the process of selecting the works felt a bit like the job of executioner. I had seen these paintings come about and had played a significant part in their life. from mixing paint, to framing them. 

when I had lined up all the large paintings on canvas in her garage, she would inspect them, hardly even looking at them directly, and not checking them against the cards (that was my job) she just gave them a rough flip through, as if to see if anything caught her eye. some were so large that she would only seem to have looked at the corner an give it a tug, and that was it, none were spared. 

then came the work of removing all the canvasses from their stretcher bars, so that the stretcher could be reused. the removal of the canvas from the stretcher was also done in the garage as opposed to the big open sun room off the atrium where the canvasses were stretched. 

I did a meticulous job of stretching the canvas. Her paintings were made to include the edges as part of the work, so the canvas had to be wrapped around the stretcher after it was complete, a very precise and time consuming task, so removing the canvas from the stretcher is a slow process, but she had me do it differently: she demonstrated, slicing through the edges of the painting with a box cutter, cutting along the sides with her characteristic physicality, until the painting flopped onto the ground and she rolled it up. then she would have me take the stretchers with the remnants of canvas to the large bright room the remove the staples. 

It only took a few minutes, and there was a group of rolled up paintings huddled near the garage door.
The same room-sized canvasses that I had measured from the roll, stretched in vast panoramas across her long studio floor, and watched as they evolved, mixing the painting and cleaning up around them, then removed and stretched, catalogued and stored, were now rolled up and ready for destruction. 

I couple of times I questioned her choices and she seemed very easily swayed either way as if the line between what she saved and what she destroyed was as permeable and abstract as the poetic forms and lines that danced through her work.

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