Love and loss at failed relationships museum
After her husband asked for a divorce, Amber Clisura gave back her engagement ring, kicked him out of the house and tossed everything that reminded her of the ruined marriage. Except for one item: a polished steel barbecue smoker that her future ex-husband had fashioned for her from an old oil drum.
“It sat there on the patio and rusted and rusted, and it became a sad symbol of the relationship,” Clisura said.
The four-legged smoker had been a treasured handmade gift, but eventually Clisura couldn’t bear to look at it. She considered giving it to a neighbor or selling it for scrap but then read about a call for submissions at the new Los Angeles branch of the Museum of Broken Relationships.
The original museum opened in Zagreb, Croatia, in 2010 after growing out of a touring collection that crisscrossed Europe, Asia and the United States. On display in Zagreb are artifacts from failed unions, most of them mundane under ordinary circumstances. A single stiletto heel. A wine opener. A worn old Snoopy doll.
But when isolated in a glass case or hanging on a white wall and accompanied by a caption, the objects become imbued with heartache or regret. Or freedom.
In Los Angeles, there’s a blue chiffon top a woman wore to a cafe where her husband told her he was leaving. An envelope of leaves mailed from Canada to San Diego so a long-distance paramour could experience changing seasons in Southern California.
One of the museum’s most talked about items is a pair of breast implants donated by an actress, who had them removed after ending a toxic relationship with a man who made disparaging comments about her body.
More than 2,000 items comprise the museum’s two brickand-mortar collections and touring shows, which have made stops in San Francisco, Helsinki, Finland and Hamburg, Germany. A show in Seoul, South Korea, featured a donated Jeep that had to be taken apart and brought in by crane. Donations arrive so regularly that the LA site hopes to continually cycle in new items to keep the exhibit fresh.
Clisura admitted she hadn’t yet been to the museum to see the old rusted smoker.
“I wasn’t sure I was ready,” she said. But she’s since changed her mind and is planning a trip with her new boyfriend.
Amber Clisura sits next to the barbecue smoker she donated to the new Museum of Broken Relationships in Los Angeles.