Saturday, May 28, 2011

Home: Our Foundation

"Tempting Fate," ©2004, H.K.Hunter, 3.5" x 5", Collage: acrylic and magazine images on paper, Collection of Diana Connolly
Recently, I've pondered home as a symbol and a reality. In the wake of Japan's earthquake/tsunami and the rash of virulent tornadoes over middle America, the fact that one's hearth can be destroyed in seconds made me think about the various values held by the place where we reside.

"Many Chambered House," ©2004, 3' x 5", Collage: acrylic, colored pencil, calendar imagery and ink on paper, Collection of Virginia Shubert
Across our country, home prices have tumbled, particularly in areas deeply connected to me: California where I live, Florida where my son resides and Michigan, where half of my family originated. We've been lucky enough to maintain our home for many years but it has come home to me how quickly that privilege can be taken away. 

As children, we moved frequently from state to state, house to house, apartment to apartment. While many kids dream about what they want to be when they grow up, I fantasized about having a home of my own (think:Virginia Woolf's A Room of her Own.)

Even as that vision took shape, my desire must have remained sublimated, because I also ended up making art about homes. Recently, I saw a message on my facebook fanpage from a collector, who bought one of my paintings nearly 20 years ago. The woman was kind enough to take a picture of the work and when I saw it, I recognized an early "home" piece.

"Piecing the Night," ©1992, H.K. Hunter, 8.5" x 7", watercolor on paper, collection of Michelle Heinz

That made me curious. I pored over my i-photo files and pulled out the "homes" I'd made in recent years. I've selected a few to share with you here.

"Katrina," ©2005, 11" x15", Collage: acrylic, ink, calendar imagery on paper, Collection of the University of Iowa Hospitals
I'm curious to hear your thoughts on home as you've watched the images of devastation flash across your television screen or heard the news about another small town leveled.  Has your art been affected by these current and timeless events? Are images of home on alert in your imagination?

Flood, ©2009, H.K. Hunter, 11" x 17", Collage: acrylic, ink, caran d'ache, foil and calendar imagery on paper, Collection: Anonymous       

I'll be posting intermittently this summer; I want to take advantage of long days and cool evenings in the studio and finish working on a chapter for Cathy Malchiodi's upcoming book, "The Arts in Healthcare." 

I look forward to keeping up with you on your blogs and wish you a reflective Memorial Day weekend; visited by memories of the ones that have gone before you.


  1. Hannah my growing up was the opposite of yours living a full 18 years in the home I was born into...then only a few other abodes before finally purchasing our own home in 1988 and living in it now these past 23 years! So I do think about the losses the Japanese people and the people in the southern states have experienced of devastation in so many's mind boggling. I once met a couple who had lost their home in the Montclair fires...the woman was pouring over family photo albums all she had been able to rescue from her home before it was totally consumed by flames. It must be such a terrible lesson in materialism; but also a wake up to what we do need to live. I think I would be devastated should that happen to me.

    I can't say it has affected my art making in any way...yet. Maybe these ideas and talking about it will, we'll see. Thanks for sharing all your "homes!"

  2. All my childhood years were spent in one house and though I moved a four times during adulthood, I am a person who hates to move and needs the stability of a real home, a place that I love. I had a wonderful teaching job in San Jose, CA for 3 years in the early 90s, but because I did not feel at home there, did not feel it was a place I could grow roots, I left. I now am very lucky to live in a place that I deeply love: the house, the land, the community.
    All the best to you for a productive summer.

  3. HI Hannah, this post really hit home (no pun intended). Like you, I moved around for most of my childhood and did not like it at all. I lived in Argentina until I was 10 in 2 different homes. I loved it there...but then the moves began.... I moved from a Arg. to Missuri in USA. Than back to Argentina 3-4 years later. Stayed there for 2 years and then moved to Philly. As a kid it was hard. I promised myself not to do that when I had kids. I wonder if that is why I also paint a lot of houses.
    My art has not been affected by the current events? Those events are too sad. I can't paint sad things...just doesn't happen...Images of homes are often in my imagination. Especially 2 homes in particular...they are happy homes and happy grandparent's home in the city and their home at the beach. All in Arg. I have painted them both. Even though my family moved back and forth (because of the political situation in Arg.) those 2 homes were always there. In fact one of my last trips there I went with my cousin to the city home, rang the door bell and the owners let us go in and enjoy the house. I hadn't been in there since 1966 when it was sold to these people. Sorry this went so just brought up many memories....Thank you for this post! BTW...I love how colorful your F fan page looks. It is awesome! As well as all the artwork here. Have a great rest of the weekend!

  4. Hi Hannah
    This is a deeply thoughtful and moving post.

    Your art is so lovely and rich in meaning and it, along with the many earth changes, touches my soul with the awareness that none of us are 'in Kansas anymore'.

    Life is changing rapidly and in ways that we cannot begin to fathom...these recently escalating weather events bring **home** for me something that I've known for a long long time.. how there isn't any THING that can mean more than Life itself. This is most apparent in our relationships with one another. This coming together in compassionate support is what we witness as we see weather changing lives and every thing being lost.

    I lost everything when I was 18. I had no THING left and my physical life was devastated. In beginning to rebuild ***from the inside out*** Life immediately brought me support and compassionate care. As I healed my largest, seemingly most unattainable goal, was to have an outer home.

    I recall and will never forget the mantra that I carried during those years..."I want my home in nature, near water, where I can do my work."

    I have that now. I never take it for granted. I am fully aware of how tenuous it all is...Life/home. I learned at 18 that everything can disappear... in the blink of an eye...and I also learned at 18 that there is a way in which Life itself brings forth the assistance and support that is truly representative of what true home represents...that we are each a portable unit but that when we connect we are truly at hOMe.

    Beautiful thoughtful meaningful post Hannah...thank you. I send love for a lovely summer in your studio.

  5. Dearest have really touched me this morning with your home post. I am in temporary housing that was wonderful for a few days, but reality is setting in. I miss my own bed and the immediacy of knowing where everything is. The lovely condo needs to be cared for for somebody else not my own family. It is a strange thing I guess, but after having my own home on the market for a year I am tired of having everything on display. I want to nestle in and be home and allow my family to be itself.
    Your artwork touches me so. Being from New Orleans I have ventured into art with flooded houses too.
    Your 1992 piece is incredibly beautiful. I see why the collector has reached out to you after so many years of enjoying this view.
    Thank you for the heartfelt post. I know homes are things that can be swept away in a minute, they hold reminders of moments we can only retrieve in our souls. Bless the families who have lost their homes. And bless the soul of those who sacrificed everything to keep us free.

  6. Lynn--I vividly remember the Montclair fire and the stories, such as the one told by the woman you met. It puts me in mind of the desert island game we played as children:"If you had to go and live on a desert island and you could only bring 3 things, what would you bring?" The answers we hear of on television, radio and internet often seem like the ironic twist of fate on that game played so many years ago.

  7. Altoon,

    Reading your words, I draw on what I know of you from your artwork and your blog. I can imagine the stability that such a long residence (in one NY home) can create. And how beautifully you've rooted yourself in Vermont. The pleasure you experience there is made manifest in your work in the studio and in the garden.

  8. Hi Hannah,

    Whether we are craving what we didn't have or celebrating what we did have "Home" leaves an indelible mark on our psyche. I don't see how it couldn't impact our work. For years I carried with me, through numerous moves, a B& W poster about the shelters/homes of the world. It was divided up into numerous smaller images of dwellings like a mud beehive, stick hut etc. I had a hard time letting go of that poster even after it suffered serious water damage from a flood.

    My childhood is pretty much a blur with too many houses to even count or remember. New schools every year, no time to make new friends become old friends.

    Despite this yearning that never seems to go away, some of my experiences have taught me to not put too much emphasis on the things that don't truly matter. Those magnificent homes that slid down the hill, the tsunami wrecked beach cottage, etc., all can be replaced but very little can take away the memories that were built there over the years.

    To Home. Wherever it is. Whatever it is.

  9. Dora: The memories that "home" stirs in us are powerful. The story of your grandparents' happy homes and your moves between the continents seems to have inspired much of your artwork. Thank you for sharing this experience: it opens a door to a deeper understanding of your multi- layered encaustic work.

  10. A wonderful post Hannah! I experienced something this week that still has me thinking. My daughter was home from Seattle for a few days and it has become clear that "home" for her is no longer California. While I can always welcome her "home", her life is in another city and I am excited for her. Going away to college is one thing, working and living on your own is another. When she left today I shed a couple of tears as this clarity changes how I view my own home now. It is the house I raised my children, but they don't live here anymore. It's time for my husband and I to create a new home in the same house we have lived in for 16 years. Sad but excited at the same time.......
    I loved the pieces you shared! Thank you!

  11. Donna--Each story people have shared in these comments is a gem--yours is no exception. Your description of "here today, gone tomorrow" is knowledge that lends much value to life. I am so happy that you were able to dream your home into being--and that you believed that even as life took away, it could also nurture and bring forth new abundance.

    Beth, I hope that your longing for "home" will soon turn into a reality. Isn't it funny how something that looks so good on the outside (the condo), sometimes just doesn't have soul on the inside? I know as that as soon as you get your head, heart and hands into your new home, it will feel fabulous and filled with heART.

  12. a powerful post Hannah...I suppose I too get caught up in anxiety of "what if's" around losing our home...and often think about moving to one that would be more suitable for me with only one story (no pun intended)...but ultimately, home is really a feeling deep inside for me. Yes it can be related to place, inspired by place...but it isn't objects...rooms and is feeling safe within my own skin...surrounded by the voices of people I love...that is home for me.

    Mazal Tov on writing a chapter in Cathy's book...I LOVE her proud of you my friend...I can't wait to read it when it is published!

    ps your home images are exquisite my friend!

  13. Paris--I love your story about the b&w poster. That could be an interesting idea to spring off of--for instance, a painting with multiple images of our homes combined with images of homes we might dream of.

    Dianne, The notion of creating a new home within a home is a great challenge. I like to do that periodically because it opens my eyes to the colors of paintings and photographs settled into new places or memories that I may have buried in dresser drawers!

    Thank you Laura, I agree with you that home is ultimately the feeling of belonging--within our own skin, with the people we love. It's a curious paradox that while we strive for this, we have the ability to create homes in the outer world as well.

  14. beautiful post... and a post which "Hit Home"... just like Dora :)
    This is a concept I am always toying with... there are times I feel Home is India, a place where I grew up and place where I experienced the firsts of my life. And somedays home is here in US, where I have built a life.
    But still... I feel like an outsider in both places... funny!

  15. What a beautiful post about home and important it is to have an anchor and roots and memories of home.
    I feel sorry for those who are homeless right now- either from the tsunami or the tornadoes or from poverty or refugees from war-- wow-- it just hit me how many people that might be all over the world! I am very thankful to have a home and family.