Dozens of gloves sit atop a segment of rusted fence around Druid Lake; some are open as if waving to passersby, others have their fingers contorted into awkward positions. But each has a story.
The display is the “Library of Lost Gloves & Lost Loves,” the creation of artist Bruce Willen.
Willen, a multidisciplinary artist and founder of Public Mechanics, an experiential design studio, lives in Baltimore’s Old Goucher neighborhood, nestled between Mount Vernon and Charles Village.
During the winter of 2020, Willen, like many people, started taking more walks around his neighborhood.
As he roamed, Willen began to notice a proliferation of missing gloves scattered throughout the streets.
“It felt like I was encountering a lot more orphan gloves than normal,” he said.
In an object that many would walk past without a thought, Willen found meaning.
“I’ve always found these solitary gloves to be poignant,” Willen said. “They have such a personified quality to them. Not only in the gestures that they make when they’re flattened on the ground or have been run over, but the gloves themselves.”
“I couldn’t help but start to invent little narratives in my mind about the people who may have lost the gloves or the people in their lives,” he added.
Throughout that winter and into 2021, Willen collected missing gloves to create a public art installation.
Right before Valentine’s Day this year, on a particularly cold and windy day, Willen — with the help of his wife, designer Sarah Templin — installed the “Library of Lost Gloves & Lost Loves” near Moorish Tower in Druid Hill Park.
The couple lined up around 50 gloves on the fence next to Druid Lake, with a note attached to each. Each note, printed on a manila hang tag with a typewriter, is meant to tell a story about the glove that it’s attached to.
“I think of each note as the first sentence to a short story,” Willen said. Two of his favorites: “We burned it all down so we could start over,” attached to a “sporty glove,” and “Her eyes were like two tail lights,” tied to a glove with two shiny buttons.
In the weeks since the installation went up, Baltimore residents have added their own gloves. One added an orange utility glove with a line about a hard day’s work. Another contributed a worn-down navy blue glove with the note, “He was a great man. Too boring for 4ever though.”
As of Monday, there were 33 gloves — both from community members and Willen — on the fence in the park.
The pandemic has elevated Willen’s appreciation for public space and connecting with people. He hopes that the installation will become a space for community members to bring lost gloves.
“Doing a project like this is a perfect way to get out some of these feelings of wanting to interact with people,” he said, “even if it’s on an imaginary level.”