Installment #2 in my Exploring Home project: A small bedroom. It’s daytime, and the sleeper is absent. One wonders what the room looks like at night, under artificial light. Is it a calming room after a hard day? What kinds of dreams happen there? What do you think this room says about the person who sleeps here? Leave a comment with your theories.
I started my experimental new photography project by improvising a room. I wasn’t sure what I wanted it to be. It turns out to be a small living room. No one is in the room at the moment. Can you spot the clues of personalities and lifestyle of the residents?
I think they are travelers who cannot travel at the moment, but the world is at home with them.
COVID-19 has people all over the world confronting the idea of being at home in ways that we may never have before. Many are chafing at the restriction imposed by the virus, but why? Isn’t “home” supposed to have a good connotation? It’s where the heart is, right?
I’ve always felt a vague fascination with interior spaces. The light through a window, illuminating floating dust. The clues hinted at by personal possessions, by people’s neatness or their mess. The sense of place and time we get from furniture, decor, organization, tools and appliances. Our homes express much about us, more than we plan or may realize.
One of my pandemic pleasures has been sneaking glimpses into the homes of TV people – reporters, politicians, various kinds of experts broadcasting the news from their houses. I’m forever peering over their shoulders. Are their bookshelves serious or for show? What about their color choices, their window treatments? Is this room lived in, or has it been turned into a stage set? Some of the newspeople superimpose their shows’ regular studio backgrounds over wherever they really are. I guess it promotes professionalism and normalcy, but I wish they wouldn’t do it so much. When they share their personal space, even if it’s just the guest room they never use or a cleaned-up corner of the garage, it humanizes this crisis we’re living through. It highlights that we are all sharing the same experience together.
Yet the idea of “home” in this common experience has become fraught with tension. What does it mean that so many of us are uncomfortable being where we live?
I’ve mentioned my in-development project, “Orchid Beach.” It’s a story – probably a digital graphic novel – that uses the idea of home, but it’s a crime thriller, quite dark and intended to disturb. And I’m just not feeling it. I don’t want to subvert the idea of home right now.
So I looked at other works, and I realized to my surprise that, despite my personal interest, I don’t have a lot of home-focused art or stories. The ones I do have are, well, quite dark and intended to disturb.
The collage “House of Hours” brings us into an Escheresque hall populated by shadows where time and faces float away from us and inner space dissolves into outer space.
My mini picture book “The Doll’s House” is a gothic melodrama of undefined family conflict which ends with an invasion by an overwhelming natural force. Oops, heheh, that one might be a little too on point at the moment.
These works are meaningful to me, but they don’t reflect my relationship with my real home at all. Naturally reclusive, I love being at home, and I love this home in particular. I’ve been in it for twenty years on purpose. We have our issues. It reveals maybe more of what I wish wasn’t true about myself (lazy slob me) and not enough of what I believe is true about myself (creative, organized, professional me who has great taste). It has too few electrical outlets and you can’t put a nail in the walls, but it’s warm and comfortable, the light is fantastic, and the vibes are happy.
And yet, I tell dark, disturbing stories about home. Why the disconnect? What am I trying to uncover, what do I want people to confront when I work with the concept of “home”? Privacy. Secrets. Personal history. Relationships and solitude. Memories. So much of my work focuses on the world outside, on distant landscapes and tall city buildings, but there are stories to be found indoors as well, in those inner spaces where we sleep and dream.
So I’m starting a new project to get my thinking on this a little less vague. Because of the pandemic, I can’t access the printing services I normally use for collages, so it will be a photography-focused online series. Should be amusing since I just have just a doddering old point-and-click Canon, no studio lights, and only the picture-editing program that came with my Mac’s antique operating system. But these are trying times and needs must, so I shall MacGyver something.
I played around a few years ago with photographing miniatures. I’ll start with that experiment and see where it takes me. I can’t guarantee we won’t end up back at dark and disturbing. But since I’m staying home, I’m free to explore. 😉
Please enjoy some small domestic scenes and views from the outside looking in.
Wow. You wander off for a month and look what happens.
I’ll start by hoping everyone out there is okay and comfortable at home with lots of soap and disinfectants and everything they need. We’re all doing fine here at the apartment attached to the studio in charming, scenic Somerville.
I was going to tell you all about why I vanished again, but it was just the usual February lost-in-the-weeds stuff. The seasonal joys of taxes, insurance, and bureaucracy. That melting of the brain and spirit and knee joints that comes with the melting of winter. All my favorite creatives were posting stories about taking stock and starting over, and I was all set to jump on the bandwagon. World events intervened, however. Boy, did they ever.
So quick catch-up: February sucked the way February does. I did finally finish that damned dollhouse roof that had threatened to derail the whole ambitious project the dollhouse belongs to. Trust me, you didn’t want to watch me do it. The project, by the way will be either a graphic novel or visual story, a suspense thriller set in and around this dollhouse. Working title: Orchid Beach.
I am committed to three public events with the Brickbottom Artists Association this year. Details will be posted separately. First up will be the Spring group show, “Construction/Deconstruction,” in mid-April. I’ll be showing a new experimental project.
Right now, I’m listening to Pharrell Williams’ “Happy” and settling into preventative semi-self-quarantine – doing my part to flatten the curve on COVID-19. For the foreseeable short-term future, I’m going to be listening to a lot of music. Doing a lot of art and writing. Reading books. Binging tv with my sainted mother. Planning my garden and starting seeds. Desperately trying to train myself not to touch my face. (Aagh! I can’t do it!!) Writing blog posts. No really this time. I promise.
I spent these first few days painting colored tissue paper onto dried flowers for that experimental project because, you know, when you’ve just gotten loose from an endless hell of miniature roof shingles, you want to dive right into the most delicate, fragile, slow, difficult, tetchy-fussy project you can think of. It looks amazing, though. I’m really excited about it. Just wait till you see.
This coronavirus thing – I’m not going to sugarcoat or skip lightly over it. It’s pretty heavy. I’d be lying if I said I’m not a little nervous, mostly for my mom’s sake. But we’re prepared, and we have each other and our friends. We’re about as on top of this game as anyone can be, I think.
Plus, it’s Spring. The birds are courting. The flowers are coming up, the trees are budding. It’s hard not to have faith in the future.
Life carries on, and so shall we all. We’re going to wash our hands, maintain polite distance, be considerate of our neighbors, and get through this latest challenge. I decree it.
So jump on the comments or Facebook page and let me know how you plan to ride out the pandemic. What’s on your play- and binge-lists? What projects will you finish? Where will you go for solitary walks, or will you write your play, or learn to bake bread, or work on the problem of human-powered flight?
For now, please enjoy some photos of the Orchid Beach dollhouse under construction, the first of several sets of teaser images to come.
Stay well and happy, all.
Hello, all. It’s been a while. Things have been kind of crazy, y’know, the way they get. Anyway, I have been extremely busy with work and planning and organizing and birding and politics and preparing for gardening, and through it all, I have been shingling the dollhouse roof.
I’m going for the look of slate, and I hope you’ll think I got close. It’s been some fun on the Google, first looking up what slate generally looks like, then how to fake it with paint, then what slate roofs in particular look like, then how to build a slate roof, and from there deeper and deeper down the rabbit hole of roofing, skylights and all that sort of jazz.
The following images show some of what I came up with. I painted more manila folders with a small-scale slate effect and others with a copper effect, because slate or other stone tile roofs will often have metal flashing and gutters at their seams, and those will sometimes be made of copper, according to my admittedly superficial research. I went more for look than structural accuracy. In my defense, my neighbor, who is a roofer, says this is pretty much correct. I find it relaxing and fun to cover sheets of paper with faux paint effects. I’m not sure what that says about me as a person, but it would suck if I didn’t enjoy it, as I need to do a lot of it.
These photos are couple of weeks old, and more progress has been made since they were taken. The work is going quickly at this point, which makes it hard to take a break for blog updates. It is about time I began work on the characters who will play out their drama in this house, as well as the furnishings and props, too.
By the way, the blog’s new background photo is a shot I took of a tree on my street, against a wet, gray sky, the bare branches just getting knobby with their first buds. Springtime in New England!
It’s yellow for Spring time!
These past weeks I’ve been working very hard on the dollhouse for my mystery graphic novel project. There were a couple of setbacks since January. I decided the acetate windows would not work for photography, so I had to cut them out and replace the mullion bars with toothpicks. Next, I realized the second floor is too dark to see into if the back roof/gable panel is in place, so I dithered for some time about how to fix that problem. But finally, all that was done, and today I put color on the exterior walls.
As you see, I went with a sunny yellow, which will be complemented by colors on the gingerbread ornaments still to come. Next, I will tile the roof, for which I painted card stock to look like slate. You can see a hint of that, dry-fitted with tape, in one of the photos.
As with most labor-intensive projects, it’s amazing how suddenly real progress can appear, and after months of slogging, the thing looks like it will soon be finished. It’s quite energizing.
It’s been a crazy several weeks, with a strained knee, two bouts of the flu, a blizzard followed by record warmth in February, and a nor’easter to usher in March like a lion, so I haven’t had time to put together a blog post until now. But progress has been made, and a new hobby has emerged.
On the dollhouse, the clapboard siding is finished at last, and I am working now on replacing the acetate in the windows with small wood frames. I found it difficult to focus a camera through the acetate, and in any event, I just didn’t like it all that much.
And the new hobby – wildlife-spotting around scenic urban Somerville. My at-home feeders serve a resident flock of about 15 resident European house sparrows, two pairs of house finches, one lingering junco, a mated pair of northern cardinals, several mourning doves, two blue jays, and the ubiquitous feral pigeons and gray squirrels. Meanwhile, near where I work my day job, I’ve also noticed a welcome return of water fowl to the Mystic estuary, where year-round herring gulls and summer-resident Canada geese have been joined by a pair each of red-breasted mergansers and mallard ducks, and some red-throated loons appear from time to time. This past month, I decided to break out the camera.
The Birds on the Estuary
I continue to work on the dollhouse for my mystery project. Yesterday, I took a break to play with the light in my studio as it illuminated the rooms under construction.
I’m excited about this project and determined to finish this house over the next several weeks. I will also soon start work on the characters who will act out the drama to be set in the house.
Construction continues on my New England beach house project, using the Orchid dollhouse as the starting point. Ironically, while putting up clapboard siding, one manila strip at a time, I find myself cursing the noise of the workmen putting up clapboard siding, one wooden strip at a time, on the house across the street. Life / Art. I’m pleased with the effect of the paper clapboarding. You can also see a little of the interior and the kitchen cabinetry. This cozy-modern cottage will be the setting of a story about trying to get away from it all, as a graphic novel illustrated with collaged photos. Stay tuned for further updates.