11.02.2009

within walls























the bathroom and hall closet doors © kjm

A year ago, I was asked to write an essay to accompany a photography book. The sponsor (it was a benefit for a charity) had seen my Early Places series and asked me to reflect on the importance of home. My essay never made the cut, but I was pleased to be asked, and thankful for the opportunity to reflect on the subject. I thought I'd post it here, and upon reading it again, it probably should be the artist statement for Early Places.

Within Walls

At the entrance to my sister’s bedroom in my childhood home, the wooden floor panels creak. They did when I was a child, and they still do, decades later - I know this because my mother still lives in the house. And so I also know that there’s always been a dowel missing from the second floor banister, that the first step into the attic is oddly higher than the others, and that the door to the spice cabinet sticks slightly when pulled.

Within our lifetime, we may call many different places home, and the memory of these spaces can be powerful. When recalled, what we remember is not an overall view, but rather details - the texture of the place. The sound of a screen door slamming, a pattern of wallpaper, the smell of a basement laundry room.

Similarly, what occurs within the space we call home is an accumulation of small moments, the intimate texture of our lives. Within walls and throughout rooms, this is where our daily lives unfold. At the kitchen table, for example, we share nourishment and read the news of the day; it’s where we pay bills and where we discuss what we’ve learned in school. It’s where we blow out candles on birthday cakes.

In the living room we tune in to both history and hooey, we read quietly under the warmth of a blanket, we wrestle siblings on the carpeted floor. In the basement we create and repair; and in the bathroom we cleanse, beginning and ending our days. In the bedroom, we dream.

In the most basic terms, a home is structure – a roof and four walls, providing shelter and protection for its inhabitants. But in intimate terms, the elements of home provide human structure – which anchors both our lives and our memory - through the power of place.

6 comments:

TammyPatrice said...

We are selling the home where I grew up b/c mom is now in a nursing facility. We have a painter there now removing old wallpaper. Last night I was there taking photographs of memories and came across the wall paper that was 3 sheets deep lying on the floor. The last time I saw that paper it was when I was 3 or 4. I was stunned. I would study the pattern of that wallpaper. It was one of the things that entertained me those long hours alone in my crib.
This post of yours could not have been more timely. Thank you for sharing your feelings and memories. I love a "sense of place"

Kevin J. Miyazaki said...

Thanks for sharing that Tamara. That's so interesting - the power that a visual pattern of wallpaper holds...

Stephanie Palumbo said...

I love your essay and the Early Places series. Have you ever read Michael Chabon's book, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay? My childhood home was sold years ago but (embarrassingly) I still haven't gotten over it, and this quote really struck me. Anyway, I'm so happy to have found your photos.

"It was absurd, but underlying his experience of the world, at some deep precambrian stratum, was the expectation that someday--but when?--he would return to the earliest chapters of his life. It was all there--somewhere--waiting for him. He would return to the scenes of his childhood, to the breakfast table of the apartment off the Graben, to the oriental splendor of the locker room at the Militarund Civilschwimmschule; not as a tourist to their ruins, but in fact; not by means of some enchantment, but simply as a matter of course. This conviction was not something rational or even seriously believed, but somehow it was there, like some early, fundamental error in his understanding of geography--that, for instance, Quebec lay to the west of Ontario--which to no amount of subsequent correction of experience could ever fully erase. He realized now that this kind of hopeless but ineradicable conviction lay at the heart of his inability to let go..."

Kevin J. Miyazaki said...

Thanks for the kind words, Stephanie. Funny you should mention Michael Chabon - I've never read any of his fiction, but am just now reading his recent book of essays, Manhood for Amateurs. He has a wonderful essay in the book about the "wilderness of childhood," in which he discusses the geography of our childhood neighborhoods.

Stephanie Palumbo said...

Thanks for the recommendation - I'll add it to my to-read list. Happy new year!

Stephanie Palumbo said...

Also! Sorry to leave so many comments but have you ever seen this project?

http://www.kentrogowski.com/Homes.html

And I'm sure you know about Rachel Whiteread's House project.