The art of the broken heart

The travel-sized bottle of conditioner is called Amazing Grace. “Mr. and Mrs. W had an open marriage into which my friend Dave had been made welcome,” reads an explanation posted next to the bottle.

The travel-sized bottle of conditioner is called Amazing Grace.

“Mr. and Mrs. W had an open marriage into which my friend Dave had been made welcome,” reads an explanation posted next to the bottle.

“After one of Mrs. W’s stays at Dave’s cabin in the woods overlooking the ocean she left behind some travel-sized toiletries.”

About a month after the toiletries were left, the Ws died in a car crash.

“Dave lost his best friend and the woman he loved with no public forum to grieve.”

The bottle came from someone in London, England. Now it sits as part of the Museum of Broken Relationships, a show at the Yukon Arts Centre’s public gallery until May.

“Dave gave me Mrs. W’s toiletries. I’m giving you the message on the bottle. You are giving Dave his public forum.”

The Museum of Broken Relationships exhibit is full of items like this, seemingly innocuous everyday things that are the leftovers of bygone relationships.

They touch on universal feelings, said Mary Bradshaw, the arts centre’s curator.

“Maybe not every story resonates by any means, but I think we can see ourselves in some of these stories,” she said.

The museum began as a travelling exhibit in 2006. Thought it now has a permanent home in Zagreb, Croatia, the museum still functions in much the same way, taking some of its items and travelling around the world collecting new pieces.

The stop in Whitehorse is its first Canadian visit.

Everyone who submits an item to the museum knows it’s going to be public. Yet some of the stories create an inescapable gut feeling that you’re invading someone’s private heartbreak, or at least sticking your nose where it doesn’t belong.

“At the opening I don’t think I’ve ever had that many people in the gallery and have it so quiet,” said Bradshaw.

“Everyone was just zoomed in, reading and even when they were talking they were almost kind of hushed. Which is interesting because it isn’t normally the case at an opening for us at all.”

A dozen Yukoners submitted items to the arts centre. They join a few dozen more on display from around the world.

“The call went out (to Yukoners) and we didn’t really know what kind of numbers to expect. Apparently, as far as our population goes, we got a good response,” Bradshaw said.

One Yukoner gave a wool work sock embroidered by his former partner to resemble a Christmas stocking. He held on to it for more than 30 years after the relationship ended.

The spring after the sock was made the pair packed up the car and moved to Dawson City, where he worked at mining camps and she waitressed.

The relationship unravelled, but the sock remained.

“Although we exchanged two or three letters and sorted out our finances, we never did get together for coffee to talk about what we shared and to say a proper goodbye,” the man writes.

“Things have panned out for me in a good way and I sure hope they have for her as well.”

Another Yukoner submitted a small jigsaw puzzle with a wolf on the front and a letter written on the back.

The pair met while travelling in Iceland but were forced into a long-distance relationship after that adventure ended.

The contributor describes the optimism that came with receiving the letter, a feeling that maybe they could make things work.

“Yet the card invariably fell apart every time I tried to keep it together. This could be said for our entire relationship.”

Bradshaw said for a lot of contributors, giving away these items was cathartic.

They’re “items that they just couldn’t bare to throw away, yet they knew it was time to get rid of them,” she said.

Once the Whitehorse exhibit ends on May 23, the items will remain as part of the museum’s larger collection.

The Popple, a staple stuffed toy for any child of the ‘80s, is still unopened in its box. It’s part of the travelling collection.

“I gave her the Popple as a gift after learning that she had never had one as a child and then suggested that it should remain unopened and it has.”

That’s the point, writes the contributor.

“With it I wish to donate my regret, fear, indifference, inflexible nature and the recognition and appreciation of her dedication to exist under the crushing weight of who I am.”

Some of the items strike a less serious note.

There’s the bottle of “intimate shampoo” submitted by someone from Croatia, a memento from a year-long relationship.

“After the relationship ended my mother used it for polishing glass. She claims it was absolutely great,” according to the write-up.

There’s the weight-loss book, a gift from someone’s ex-fiance. “Thank God I never married the guy.”

Bradshaw said there’s a mix of emotions that come with the items.

“It really varies. Some are kind of strange, some are incredibly funny and some are, oh my God, just heartbreaking,” she said.

On a small shelf is a black film canister. It’s not until you read the description that you realize it contains human ashes.

After 33 years of marriage, the relationship ended with his death.

The American contributor gave the ashes to the museum after five months of travelling the world. He wanted to “have my friends blow them to all ends of the earth.”

Contact Ashley Joannou at

ashleyj@yukon-news.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Two people walk up the stairs past an advance polling sign at the Canda Games Centre on April 4. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
April 12 is polling day: Here’s how to vote

If in doubt, electionsyukon.ca has an address-to-riding tool

Yukon Party leader Currie Dixon addressing media at a press conference on April 8. The territorial election is on April 12. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Getting to know Currie Dixon and the Yukon Party platform

A closer look at the party leader and promises on the campaign trail

Yukon NDP leader Kate White, surrounded by socially distanced candidates, announces her platform in Whitehorse on March 29. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Getting to know Kate White and the Yukon NDP Platform

A detailed look at the NDP platform and Kate White’s leadership campaign this election

Crystal Schick/Yukon News
Sandy Silver announces the territorial election in Whitehorse. Silver is seeking a second term as premier and third term as Klondike MLA. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Getting to know Sandy Silver and the Yukon Liberal platform

Yukon Liberal Leader Sandy Silver is vying for a second term as… Continue reading

Whitehorse City Hall (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
This week at city hall

A look at issues discussed by Whitehorse city council at its April 6 meeting.

Point-in-Time homeless count planned this month

Volunteers will count those in shelters, short-term housing and without shelter in a 24-hour period.

The Yukon’s new ATIPP Act came into effect on April 1. Yukoners can submit ATIPP requests online or at the Legislative Assembly building. (Gabrielle Plonka/Yukon News file)
New ATIPP Act in effect as of April 1

The changes promise increased government transparency

A new conservancy in northern B.C. is adjacent to Mount Edziza Provincial Park. (Courtesy BC Parks)
Ice Mountain Lands near Telegraph Creek, B.C., granted conservancy protection

The conservancy is the first step in a multi-year Tahltan Stewardship Initiative

Yukon RCMP reported a child pornography-related arrest on April 1. (Phil McLachlan/Black Press file)
Whitehorse man arrested on child pornography charges

The 43-year-old was charged with possession of child pornography and making child pornography

Team Yukon athletes wave flags at the 2012 Arctic Winter Games opening ceremony in Whitehorse. The postponed 2022 event in Wood Buffalo, Alta., has been rescheduled for Jan. 29 to Feb. 4, 2023. (Justin Kennedy/Yukon News file)
New dates set for Arctic Winter Games

Wood Buffalo, Alta. will host event Jan. 29 to Feb. 4, 2023

Victoria Gold Corp. has contributed $1 million to the First Nation of Na-cho Nyak Dun after six months of production at the Eagle Gold Mine. (Submitted/Victoria Gold Corp.)
Victoria Gold contributes $1 million to First Nation of Na-cho Nyak Dun

Victoria Gold signed a Comprehensive Cooperation and Benefits Agreement in 2011

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley speaks to media in Whitehorse on October 30, 2020. Hanley is now encouraging Yukon to continue following health regulations, noting it could still be some time before changes to restrictions are made. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
No active COVID cases in Yukon

Hanley highlights concerns over variants, encourages vaccinations

Most Read