What Does "Home" Mean To You?

Jan 17, 2015

"Foundling" by Marion Starling Boyer
Credit courtesy of RCVA

CORRECTION: The original version of this story said the reading in connection with the project was on February 9th. It's actually on February 19th at 5:30 p.m.

What do you think of when you think of home? That’s the question artists and writers were asked to answer in a new exhibit at Western Michigan University's Richmond Center for Visual Arts.

HOME: An Artists and Writers Project will be on display at the Rose Netzorg and James W. Kerr Gallery through March 6th.

“It’s an idea. It’s a sense of belonging. It’s your family. It’s not just your house,” says Mindi Bagnall, the university’s registrar of exhibitions and curator of art collections at the Richmond Center.

Bagnall says after her divorce, the idea of home became very important for her. Her latest installation will be at the exhibit.

“It’ll be a wheel of fortune—an actual working wheel of fortune," she says. "My idea was—cause home really is my thing—and it always intrigued me the fact that the home that you start out in is pure chance—luck really—whether you are born into a really rich home or whether you’re born in the back seat of the car.”

"Our Mother was Always in the Sky" by Elizabeth Kerlikowske
Credit courtesy of RCVA

Bagnall says she invited many of the writers and artists from a similar project put on by her WMU colleague Sidnee Peters. The 2012 exhibit called Hours focused on the time of day when each artist felt most at peace. 

In addition to individual artist’s work, there are many collaborations in HOME.

For instance, there are more than eight broadsides - where a writer scribbled something down and then an artist interpreted it with paint or other media.

Artist and graphic designer Elizabeth King helped with the project. She says it’s rare that artists and writers get to experience something like this.

“To have your work out in the world is very different for writers than for artists. And I thought a lot of the writers really stepped up for creating pieces that were going to be able to be displayed in a gallery," says King.

"It’s a little bit more familiar territory for the artists, but I think some artists also stepped outside their comfort zones and did writing to go with their art.”

Dave Marlatt of WMUK’s The Pure Drop contributed a poem called "The Essential Jumble," which sits next to his wife Mary Whalen’s tintype photographs of junk drawers.

“This artwork is really about a very important part of the home where you can open a drawer and find anything you need—including playing cards and mouse traps and scissors," King says. "We’re always looking for the scissors, right?”

But not all of the works are cozy. Bagnall says for some artists, the theme of home brought up bad memories. Margaret DeRitter’s work shows scenes from a violent act, framed by a broken window.

“It was some kind of break-in and so that was, you know, very personal for her. Her home was violated, basically,” Bagnall explains.  

"Homing Instinct" by Elizabeth King
Credit courtesy of RCVA

King’s piece takes a much broader view of home—Earth in the vast universe. The artwork features a long string of recycled and found objects. It stretches from the top of the gallery to a small square pedestal with a decorated tree and a tiny house on it.

The objects at the top of the suspension are circular, reflecting our view planets and stars.

“And then as it comes down, it becomes more light-filled, more luminous, more colorful, more personal," King adds. "It starts to become the shapes that we recognize. It’s the things that we love in the world.”

You can see HOME: An Artists and Writers Project at the Richmond Center for Visual Arts’ Kerr Gallery at WMU. To reach the gallery, you have to go through the current student exhibit.

There will also be a reading in connection with the project on February 19th at the RCVA's lecture hall Room 2008.