I was looking into more old journal drawings and came across this book that was made to record the thoughts and drawings of a series about my childhood home. The book was shaped like a house and the whatever was handy paper for the folios were marked into before any writing or drawing took place. I did not want to open it and have clean blank pages staring back.
So what follows is how a total of three house shaped structures came about and evolved along the way. I needed to capture all my thoughts in the process. I will start off with this one of many artist statements I wrote quite a while ago that captures how I work.
The Order of Things:
As an artist who is creating something, it must start with an idea, an idea that I feel strongly about fixing into a visual form. It must be something that matters to me and worth the expenditure of time and materials to resolve. The choices made along the way to completion are continually in service to that idea. There is no deviation through the seduction of materials and I will keep the processes of making within my own range of learned and practiced techniques.
I am not interested in making someone else’s art. I don’t have time for that. Nor am I interested in simply “playing” in the studio. The work that happens in my studio is exactly that, work.
It is an unwavering commitment to an idea that requires continual choices in a particular order of selection, combination, completion and assessment….S. Webster
Now the first house…
“Indeed, every great image has an unfathomable oneiric depth to which the personal past adds special color. Consequently it is not until late in life that we really revere an image, when we discover that its roots plunge well beyond the history that is fixed in our memories.” Gaston Bachelard
Journal for a work addressing families, homes and secrets:
I am not comfortable exposing or even thinking about others’ secrets. Not even my own. Actually the corners will have to stay dark and the layers covered. I will need to find metaphors for our secrets.
There could be layers of houses with the walls made of letters from home – the positive letters of my mother’s – all layering over a more secret center pulse of the house’s existence – small windows here and there – one sees through to the next but never the whole picture.
“The corner is a sort of half-box, part walls, part door.” Gaston Bachelard
I like the safeness of the corners as well as the mystery.
“And this utterly familiar common thing would suddenly be revealed to me with all the wonder with which we discover a thing we have seen all our lives and yet have never known before.” Thomas Wolfe
And then I continue thinking about the houses I will make……
Return to the house structure for Revealing and Concealing Space…piano hinged box with separate roof and floor pieces. It can open completely out and turn inside out….adapt to the secrecy of my place in the house.
The back wall of fence opens to release me to the world of Nature….
“Doors that open to the countryside seem to confer freedom behind the world’s back.” Ramon Gomez
These are the things I would bring back into my space at home – all took on a preciousness and were carefully tucked away – hidden in boxes – or placed on shelves or pressed in books.
This house has moved to a place that encourages escape from its confines and all that implies – closed in, unfinished or disrepair – too small – no air for a young tomboy. Yet there is something comforting about its form. Solid and protective. There are remnants of the attempts my mother made to give the house a “homeness”. The curtain is enough as she was not a true lover of housekeeping – hated cooking and was terrible at it. Did not like housework and chose to ignore it. We were loved and allowed to be free. She was a very tolerant woman.
“It was a patriarchal system where men managed the means of acquisition and made the decisions which determined our lives. The woman’s obligation (and usually desire) was to ease those determinations into existence. As children we knew our place, our value, and our limitations. We also knew that we were not necessarily needed and therefore easily excused to wander and explore our natural world in complete safety and with wild abandon.”…from artist statement to Where I Once Belonged
The entire experience about constructing this house fluctuated with my feelings brought on by memories. Somewhere in the building and collecting and writing I let go of the secrecy of the house’s corners and wanted to find myself in this place. I wanted to show the freedom I had to go away and be out of the confines of a small place with too many people and too much unpredictable noise. Always out the door and gone – safely away rather than safely home. The wallpaper and finding the text – my own writing rather than Bachelard’s determined my final response to the house.
I still need to explore the secrets, the corners and the darker interiors of this house, but at least now I have a point of reference – a point I do not mind returning to for more and more information about myself and my memories of home (house).
The second in the series was a small house that has a book coming out of the side. In the attic space is a strip of paper all bundled up with the text from “where I once belonged”. Pages were coffee filters. I never wrote on them….
The third in the series was back to building a house.
I have made the third house – returning to the early idea of a house that opens to reveal its corners that remain inaccessible. It is slightly taller than the main part of house #1. The front two corners are hinged to the back half of the house halfway down the outside wall. The interior is more of the wallpaper of #1 and the addition of a photocopy of a picture I took at Dolph Smith’s homestead in Ripley, TN. The distorted view through the window and the exterior’s clapboard siding has such a look of familiarity. The outdoors beckons (through the window) to come outside, “come away” it calls. The floor is treated as in #1 house. Outside the house a shingle look of papers overlapping – much better looking so I recovered the exteriors of house #1 and the book house of #2. Roots only appear here and there (one floor with attics above. I like this one.
I had someone make a tiny wooden chair to put in the center of the floor of this third house…it’s emptiness was my “presence of absence”.
All the writing above appears in the journal along with other notations of materials used and why.
This series was exhibited a few times. I loved making it and taking notes on my memories of what mattered to include in the houses.
The last I saw of them was here….about a year and half ago.
I found this process of making interesting and wanted to share it. Tomorrow I will return to the usual…more drawings a day, more images and writings from old journals.