I met Judy at The Artist Project a couple of years ago. She really loved my work and we connected through our conversation. Over the course of the day, she returned a couple of times, and we discussed a work she particularly liked, a wheel I had made, with a street scene on it.
She also liked my light boxes, especially the Homage Homes. When I explained that they were models of real houses, she lamented that she and her husband have lived in too many houses, not just one that would make sense for a commission.
So I did up a drawing for her, combining the wheel she liked so much with the possibility of more houses. Judy and her husband have lived in many houses over the years – from Toronto to Chicago to New York to Whitehorse to Los Angeles, and everywhere in between. A street scene, like the wheel she liked might just work…
Actually, it worked really well! The sixteen houses run around the edge of the wheel, telling the story of Judy and her husband’s journey over the last thirty years. They range from tiny row houses to Frank Gehry skyscrapers to small bungalows, to a crazy Victorian mansion. Keep in mind that these are miniatures – most are less than 1″ tall.
I got lost in the stories of these houses as much as I got lost in the details of making them. I am happy I had a small part in their story.
Here’s what Judy had to say about it:
“Everyone is CRAZY about it. It is truly such a special piece and we are all admiring it. We are trying it in various places and I will send you a pic once we decide. […] I can’t thank you enough Jen, for taking this on. I can only imagine how complicated it was. But please know you have a family that is so thrilled with the result. It feels like our private ‘wheel of life‘ represented by all the places, houses and adventures. Also, it makes us want to settle down! Ha!”
“We unpacked the house and hung it in our living room, where it looks fantastic. It’s plugged into a socket which turns on all the room lamps at one switch so that if the lights are on, then the prairie house is, too. It’s hanging below a painting of a grain elevator by local artist Jim Prescott, and hanging beside an enormous landscape painting by local artist Connie Geerts. It’s right at home. We love it and are so glad you agreed to make such an odd dwelling.”
My thesis exhibition, You Can Never Go Home, reflects the idea of irreconcilable, parallel homes, one that’s here and one that’s there. Moving from Calgary, Alberta, to Waterloo, Ontario, to pursue my Master of Fine Arts, I have used myself as a two-year case study to examine how one might make a new place a home. The installation consists of an abundance of handmade objects: life-sized selfies displayed in lightboxes, sculptures in the form of houses and other symbolic buildings (some containing lightboxes and short video loops), as well as my collections of curios, tools and building materials. As an installation, the work examines concepts, concerns and emotions that accompany the process of moving a long distance— longing, memory, nostalgia, absence, belonging, family, lost-ness, place, time, anxiety, resilience, futility, humour, loneliness, rhythm and routine. It is an anxious, obsessive, yet humourous manifestation of my attempts to feel at home in a new place, just as I am about to leave.