The themes of house and home are captivating to artists, and in this Flash Gallery, eleven Artful Home artists explore ideas of dwellings and structures, as well as the emotions associated with home. From the dreamlike pastel suburbs of R. Michael Wommack to the illuminated porcelain factories of Jonathan White, to the archetypal symbolism of Cathy Broski and Julie Girardini, these American artists explore a sense of time and place that is unique to an America in the post-industrial age. In these 38 works, house-like structures take both center stage and form a backdrop for the dramas of everyday life. Constructed from metal, wood, and clay, woven in tapestry, quilted in fabric, drawn with pastels and painted with oil, these pieces of artwork explore the landscape of the heart as well as architectural structure.
The iconic symbol of the house as a vessel is important to several of the artists in this event. Clay artist Cathy Broski is known for her archetypal figures where the house symbolizes a vessel that holds life’s memories and experiences. As Broski hollows out cavities in her large and amazing sculptures of human figures, she inserts stacked cups, houses, and ladders in the resulting “grottos,” often positioning the houses closest to the heart.
Metal artist Julie Girardini also views the house form as a symbol. Not only does this iconic form hold the essence of our history, but, to the artist, it is also is a symbol of where we are going. Julie Girardini’s houses are clean modernist statements of the value of growth and phases of life, each documenting a stage in experience. In “Story Houses,” diary-like writing covers the external walls and roofs of two houses, hinting at the stories within. In “Missing Home,” the sculpture is dominated by what is not there, a huge house-shaped void in the middle of a web of overlapping metal wires.
Lynn Cornelius, a fiber artist, explores the nature of home as both an interior and exterior experience. She interprets “home” as many things: the physical body; the interior world of thoughts, emotions, and sensations; the structures in which we live; and the larger community of the planet. In the “The Sky’s Loneliness,” the artist explores the smooth exterior house shape reflecting the patterns of a starry sky, and within, the interior chaos of exposed threads.
In Chris Bowman’s Dwelling series, the artist combines salvaged materials from old houses and barns with new house forms. Recycled floor boards, moldings, and beams create the bases for Bowman’s tiny carved houses. Directionality of houses is important in these enigmatic sculptures. In “Coming and Going,” we are presented with the front of the house and the back of a house, while in “North South East West” the houses are positioned to align with the cardinal directions. Bowman leaves the marks of the tools on each house surface, imparting a charm and character not unlike that of a handwritten letter.
While Kyle Hawke’s sculpture called “Roots” seems to tell a universal story of a house becoming rooted in place, it also tells a personal story of the artist and his wife. Before the artist was born, his father cut down a Black Walnut tree on the family property and had it milled into lumber, which has been used to carve the curving roots beneath the house. The Linden wood for the house itself came from a tree that his father-in-law felled on the property where his wife grew up. “Both of our families are responsible for all of the wood used in each ‘Roots’ piece,” writes the artist. “Needless to say it works on many levels.”
When you think of the suburbs, you often think of rootlessness, or temporary houses purchased for specific stages in life. However, in R. Michael Wommack’s beautiful and dreamlike pastels, the artist creates a fantastic vision of the suburbs. Inspired by a dream of swimming in illuminated pools in the suburban neighborhood where he grew up, the artist began a project that is now in its eighth year. Wommack creates a vison of the early suburbs of any major city. The repetition of identical houses and swimming pools and holiday decorations is imbued with an ethereal glow. Indeed the blue light of TVs and Texas-shaped swimming pools imparts an unearthly color to Wommack’s night scenes, and daylight brings a Hopper-like sense of quiet and order. These are landscapes where peach and mint and turquoise houses curve gently into the horizon, untroubled by motor vehicles or noise or playing children.
David Stabley’s visions of houses are just the opposite — each dwelling seems to explode with the energy inside. Nothing is orderly here — furniture and people are positioned at crazy angles, the houses seem alive, and the doors and windows are sprung wide open. Through them, beds and stories and dreams seem to wind around coffee cups and hearts, and escape into the starry skies.
In Brian Kershisnik’s painting “Dances Through Disaster,” a man dances on a rowboat as the house behind him is swallowed in rising water. If you look closely, the house is filled with stained glass windows, and the story becomes a deeper message of faith and tribulation and a spirit of rejoicing. Therese May’s “Sweet Home Sweet” and “Home Sweet Home” express in quilted detail the value of family and home, and the place where all roads lead. And Ken Girardini, with his wonderful metal drawing called “Rocket is my Home,” celebrates his coming of age during the time of space exploration, his subsequent career at NASA, and his fascination with outer space.
And this all leads to the final artist featured in the event, Jonathan White, who creates factory-like structures out of porcelain. White first builds the porcelain frameworks for the buildings, which are then covered with thin porcelain sheets. As you walk around these magically illuminated sculptures you are struck by both a sense of their fragility and their underlying strength, their portrayal of buildings usually created in iron and steel recreated in what seems to be the most fragile of materials. And yet, porcelain is one of the strongest and most resonant of clay bodies and the apparent fragility, the underlying strength, the illumination brings to us yet another metaphor for home.
In this Flash Gallery, the forms and the messages of these artists create a resonance that exists long after you leave the event. There really is no place like home.