Being away from home for the first time has made me think about the concept of home a lot. I never understood the quote, “You can’t go home again,” until I left, and now I understand completely. However, I think that we are always able to make a home in whatever place we find ourselves, it just takes a little time and understanding.
The New Views: Home/Place exhibit at the Glen Arbor Arts Center is comprised of 25 2D and 3D pieces of art from 25 artists that demonstrate what home means to the artist. The artists are from all over the United States, but all have one thing in common: they all have ties to Michigan.
The show is a juried show, meaning that questions were asked that the artists had to answer to guide them on what kind of art they should make, and to get them to think deeply about the question of what home and place means to them.
“The No. 1 job of a creative person is to be a problem solver,” said Sarah Bearup-Neal, the Glen Arbor Arts Center gallery manager. “We don’t want people who are phoning it in, we wanted people to really take the creative problem and work through it.”
The creative problems, or prompts, that shaped the exhibit are thought provoking and challenging. Questions like defining whether home is a real, imagined or mythic place, and how do you experience and describe where your home is.
“We have all sorts of understanding of home and place, one of our Merit award winners Liz Wall, her statement talks about when she’s got her bathrobe on …that’s home.”
The piece Sarah is talking about is a pastel called Morning Meditation. The painting is a burst of colors with a woman in a white robe right in the middle, ironing. The idea of home for Liz, is not in the address where she lives but in the fluffiness of a bathrobe that she wears in the morning before she starts the day, and again in the evening when she is about to end it.
“Another one of our artists, John Murphey, he spends most of his time in Maryland but he spends part of his time here in Glen Arbor, home for him is his cozy studio.”
John’s watercolor ink piece, In My Comfy Living Room shows a small apartment living room in a bit of disarray, and I instantly am attracted to it. The plants, lamps and small space remind me of my own cozy little place where I like to get work done. John describes the scene as not necessarily home for him, stating on the painting’s description, “Yes my living room is comfy. No, it doesn’t really mean home for me. It was the act of drawing it that made me feel most at home. I just love to draw!”
Some artists in the exhibit define their idea of home as Michigan. Adam VanHouten depicts a pine tree lined road with the sun peaking over the horizon in his oil painting The Sun Leads The Way Home. Adam painted the scene while getting lost on a drive through Northern Michigan. In the painting’s description he said that the places we are alone and lost can be home just as much as the places we frequent most, and this thrill of discovering new places in Northern Michigan is what draws him back time and time again.
Not all the artists in the exhibit are tied to Northern Michigan, some artists have pieces that focus on downstate. Artist Whitney Lea Sage created Portraits of Home, an ink on panel collection that shows the different abandoned homes and empty lots inside Detroit. Her reasoning for the collection is to show the devastation that has occurred in neighborhoods that were once thriving and the loss of “familial and community identity” these neighborhoods once held. There were once memories and life inside of the ghost houses and empty fields.
Sarah was interested in this idea of home because of how much our own experiences are filtered through a screen. Television and social media can skew ideas and opinions, and home is something that can be radically different for all of us, but also something that radically connects all of us in that it is something we all understand. We all have a place where we feel most ourselves and most at ease.
“I was horrified at finding how much time I spent in the morning switching from one website to another, getting someone else’s filtered view of the world. This exhibition asks people to pull from their direct experience,” Sarah said.
A piece that caught my eye before I left was Mike Cotter’s Welcome Home Mr. K. In the description for the paper, India ink and charcoal collage, Mike talked about the quote I mentioned earlier; “You can’t go home again.”
In the collage description Mike writes that we often yearn for a place from our past out of nostalgia. If we are able to not expect to relive the feelings we once had when we called that place home, we can look at it with fresh eyes and create new memories.
The painting is familiar and reminds me of my childhood neighborhood. A flashy sports car parked in the driveway of a modest home, surrounded by lilac trees.
I might not be able to go home again, but I’m well on my way to creating my new idea of home here in Northern Michigan.