Friday, April 20, 2012

The Houses that Elizabeth Klimek Built

The dream, and not just an American one, is that practically everyone at one time in their life fantasizes about having a home; a safe place to put your stuff, to rest, raise a family and retire. It would be a place with a little bit of yard, a porch, maybe some flowers, and it would have a dog and a cat constantly chasing each other around the house.  And (if one were honest to admit it) it would be one of those homes with a reflective blue orb yard ball with a fountain and a statue of a Bambi-esque deer or one of those painted wooden things sitting right out in front of the yard where someone's bending over so we can see their enormous derriere . I could not profess to wanting such a grandiose estate, but have seen plenty of them back home in Ohio, so to each their own.....
Elizabeth Klimek her version of the home fantasy in a number of ways that caught my attention and gave me a glimpse of  something familiar, something from home, of home. She's taken the concept and created silhouetted and three-dimentional hearths. She's turned printmaking to her advantage, creating fragmented cutouts of slatboard wooden texture, using photographic glimspes of trees against the farm's nightlight, old farmhouses and she's covering them with old, faded wallpapers from some Grandma's parlor. There are also stitching, stains and worn surfaces on the wallpapers; as though it's a place left behind in one's memories.
Klimek creates a variation on the Victorian silhouette cutout where she isolates the house in silhouette, and  fills them with old, faded wallpaper. The result is a place we may have all been, where we go to Grandma's house and go clammering upstairs to play with our cousins. We run our little hands over the colored wallpapers as we race upstairs: feeling the dusty, dry textures of the paper and looking, (as we play hide and seek in the upstairs bedroom closets), for any small chip or tear in the paper so we can go and tear it further to see the glue-stained yellow backside of the paper, and  to see if there is another wallpaper underneath; if it has multiple-color layers and we see how pretty they all were - even in their glorified fadedness. Ahh, to be a kid again.... 
The first image in this article shows one of those proud home owner rites of passage, which always amuses me, where someone has just got to take a picture of their own house and put it onto a frame, often with their family name emblazoned in Old English script at the bottom. In this case, the psychedelic flower-child patterning reminiscient of the 1970s sourrounds the modified trailer home. It's delightfully fresh and painfuly sweet.
Klimek's image directly above, of the wallpaper silhouette of the house frame, is a wonderful commentary on the memories associated within a home. The black surrounding the house traps and confines those memories, stains and all, and speaks to one's ghosts that we can never really forget. 

Another thing I enjoyed about Klimek's work are her printed constructions of simplified hearths. The buildings, without doors or windows, are equally chock-full of memories - loaded within by their confined form as much as heavily-laden with the memories we conjure up from initial sight of their exterior. Again, we all can relate to our memories of visiting relatives, and the things that last with us for a lifetime.
In closing, the houses that Klimek has built are like powerful reliquaries. Instead of holding a sacred object for religious prayer, they hold precious memories of people dear to us and of times gone by. They are a physical manifestation of our personal foundations, and our dreams for saftey and security.They are also like reliquaries in that they require our annual holiday and birthday pilgrimmages, to serve as vessels of things deemed precious and hauntingly familiar.  

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