Nyack, New York – 2001
Spirit of the House
When confronted with the task of creating an exhibition for the historic Hopper House Center for Art in Nyack, New York, the idea of contemporary installation exhibition was obvious. The placement of the artists was intuitive assigning one artist per each of the four rooms, one artist in the breezeway, one in the garden entrance, and three artists in the rear garden. This allowed each artist to create site specific installation in his or her separate environment. Pat Dennis, the director of Hopper House was excited with the idea of Going Home since it was a good method to introduce Contemporary art issues into the Nyack community. For me however, the idea to restore the essence of Hopper’s work with the use of his childhood home was exciting. What does Edward Hopper’s work represent to us? When one studies Hopper’s magnificent painting issues of Americana, a nostalgic way of life, and the eerie sense of the absence are usually recognized. For me, the haunted, vacant paintings foretold the fate of Hopper’s childhood home after his death and the death of his wife and sister. The Sears catalogue house stood vacant over the years hidden behind the unkempt landscape until the love for Hopper’s art revitalized and restored the building. This love created the foundation that rescued the aging house and resurrected the history of the structure. This very nature became the linking thread for the artists who all spoke of memory and how life’s residue creates a spiritual patina on a space. This often unspoken and subtle idea became a very powerful element in Going Home. Each artist thoroughly studied the work and life of Edward Hopper and wanted to cull ideas from this historic information to use as inspiration for their works. As informed site-specific artists this was not a new method for making art. However, to combine the issues of Hopper’s work and the life of the domestic structure was a new and exciting concept to address. It was not until the artists visited the actual house that inspiration was ignited. Issues of Hopper’s life became apparent and each artist began to recall their own childhood home at the same time. A house is just another building constructed from basic materials. Wood, plaster, brick create the foundation and with a little effort the structure can then be further adorned with architectural elements. After the building is completed, the inhabitants decorate the spaces with personal touches turning the house into a home. As the life of a home often changes from one owner to the next these decorations may change. As times and fashion change, so do the interiors. But as we all have experienced in our own lives, we may return to our childhood home for the holidays and see the same entry, fireplace, or door knob which can evoke an emotional response to an inanimate object.
The scent of a basement or the color of a room may also trigger a feeling of nostalgia. Just arriving down a winding driveway or familiar road may cause the same response. In this exhibition, I was hoping that the artists would address this issue. It is not the architectural elements that send a message to our feelings but the memories that they conjure up. A home has a life of its own capturing the events of life: birth, childhood events, marriage, and even death. And with these pivotal happenings, sometimes the house is altered. A new tree may be planted, a banister may be broken and then repaired, or wall may be removed. The function of a room may change as a child moves away from home to attend college. Each of these rooms seems hold our live. A home is like a three-dimensional photo album which not only contains images but the essence of our memories.
And these happening and memories, over the years, create a magnificent patina on the home. Whether the floorboards take on a worn sheen or the wallpaper begins to fade, the home physically alters with age. Just like the Velveteen Rabbit. However, some feel that the home also develops a patina that remains in a spiritual plane. In either belief, the action of going home can be a powerful one and so with Going Home I hope through the artists work we can create an equally enlightening experience for all the viewers coming to Hopper House.