There is nothing like the feeling of coming home.
I love walking in the front door and finding everything as I placed it. My small world, crafted to my liking. Every corner illuminated with my belongings.
To a large extent, this careful placement is an act of self expression. The quiet murmuring of a home which is always in the process of being made is beautiful. The arrangement of ones possessions is more than building a place to exist. We build homes in ways that reflect our personalities, our families, our cultures, our values.
It is this dynamic which makes the home so very interesting. The aesthetics of our homes communicate so much more than where we live. They communicate what we esteem, and where we place significance.
My home is a nod to West Elm, Anthropologie, vintage shops and Dwell Magazine. (Note here the consumerism infused in this sentence alone.) What is particular about this sensibility is the way beauty is rendered as clean lines with allusions to nature. A white countertop with a white vase. One voluptuous stem of a curly willow. A white rug. Oak table and rustic chairs. It’s both modern and earthy. Simple. Clean.
I really love my garden. I love the dirt under my fingernails and the musky smell of soil. I love that it’s wild and I get to participate in that wildness. I love it–outside.
Here is where what we believe about our homes, becomes tricky. I enjoy nature. But I love it in its place. Outside my walls. And occasionally, within them. But brought in by me, stem by stem. Placed in vases. Allocated. Decided upon.
My home not only represents what I choose to bring into it, but what I choose to leave outside. Here we are again, talking about those obvious absences in my life. These are no more clearly apparent than when looking around my living room. My home is a harnessing of the world around me, categorized and put away–a modern Cabinet of Curiosities. I choose to bring nature in in small increments and specific places. I choose what belongs and where it fits. And also what does not belong.
We have become people who live within nature at our convenience. We like to talk about fostering our connection to the land. But that connection is still strained, as it bucks against our self imposed order, our categories, our notions of belonging. You see, the land is wild. It is full of storms and insects and blazing sun. It is fertile and raw and green. It is powerful and unpredictable and not of our making. It is unruly. We invite the land into our homes, but in careful, measured steps. In its most insidious form, crafting our ideal home means doing our best to transform or exclude unwanted elements. Perhaps even persons.
There is a brilliant theory in Indian art called “synoptic space.” Artists have used this technique to illustrate two different activities happening in two different places at the same time. Indian art has become masterful in its ability to address simultaneous complexity within one composition. The paintings in Domestic Spaces are not simply still lifes. They are synoptic still lifes.
The paintings are images from the home. They are also images from the wild. They are simultaneous compositions. Not only showing the home and the wild at the same time, but developing a relationship, one to another. Sometimes that relationship is harmonious. Sometimes it is a struggle. It is a power dynamic. It demonstrates how the home is haunted by the wild it attempts to harness or exclude. It is a visual narrative of the home as a site of our integration of the world as we encounter it, and the impulses we have to order it.
Our houses are never simply self expressions. They are a gestalt of what we choose to bring home, and what we leave behind. They are catalogs of the beliefs which fuel these acts, the tensions that exist, and the absences that follow. The aesthetics: single curly willow in my white vase. We don’t talk about the absent dirt.