Symbols of home

Houses for Habitat

Paul Ford’s “Indian Hills Development” addresses the idea of housing developments from two points of view. The collage is part of the exhibit Houses for Habitat<i>.</i>

Paul Ford’s “Indian Hills Development” addresses the idea of housing developments from two points of view. The collage is part of the exhibit Houses for Habitat.

Photo By David Robert

Is home where you were born, where your heart is, or where you want to die? Does it travel with you? Is it something you wish you had?

Forty-one area artists were asked to depict a house or home for Art Source Gallery’s Houses for Habitat. The resulting artwork reflects Northern Nevada artists’ range, from realist to romantic to conceptual, and will be auctioned off to raise funds for Habitat for Humanity. The goal is to finance the construction of five new houses.

Several artists showed their regional pride by painting rural Nevada houses and barns. A few turned in artworks that suggest they still call other places home, such as Pat Bergstrom’s watercolor painting, “Down East.” Some high-profile artists whose work usually deals with their surroundings, either directly or indirectly, modified their approach to be more specifically “home” oriented, such as Phyllis Schaffer, who added a tree to the foreground of her signature landscape paintings to make a painting called “Bird Dwelling.” (Birds have often been used in art as symbols of either nesting or fleeing, so it’s no surprise that several artists in Houses for Habitat used bird or birdhouse imagery.)

Others thought outside the box, like photographer Reed Bingham, whose 2004 Nevada Museum of Art exhibit, Nevada Portraits, was reproduced in a book of the same title. For this show, Bingham donated the yet-to-be-executed “Photographic Portrait of Highest Bidder.”

Some artists were thinking politically. Paul Ford’s “Indian Hills Development” is a collage made of soil, sticks and thin bundles of grass that work like thick lines in a painting, forming an image of the landscape near Minden, where he lives. On top of the natural materials, three monopoly-house-shaped structures, made of milled wood, refer to newly constructed homes. Ford addressed the concept of home by noting how the landscape had changed in recent years.

“It was about my drive home every day from Carson High School and what was happening to the horizon as I drove through it over a period of several years. All of the sudden, we had this big spurt of development, so things changed dramatically. In some ways it’s called ‘horizon pollution, and in other ways it’s called ‘affordable housing.'”

Others were thinking sociologically. In “My House is Your Home,” Jim McCormick assembled commercial and makeshift building materials together on a 12-by-12-inch floor tile. The central feature is a rusted, flattened tin can, of the type that was once commonly used as homemade siding and can still be seen nailed to rural Nevada houses. McCormick found the can on a trip to Eureka, and its rusty texture and bright paint splatters symbolize some of his thoughts about the structures people live in.

“Abodes are defined by what’s outside, which then leaves the mystery for what’s going on inside,” he says.

The prospect of making one piece for a group show doesn’t always arouse an artist’s maximum level of creativity, and it often doesn’t make for a coherent exhibit, but in this case, artists enthusiastically embraced the challenge to express some ideas about where they live, how they live, and how they relate to their environments—and to donate their work to an organization that can affect a positive change in someone’s housing status.