I embarked on an investigation of my personal history using an archaeological approach. I recreated the first house I lived in Winnipeg circa 1974. At the time, I called this little house ‘The Smallest House Known To Man’. It was a cottage on the banks of the Red River with few amenities, just like the houses in which many people begin their adult lives. In this humble abode, I not only made art and ran a business but also experienced the joys of parenthood. It was here that I became part of a vibrant community, grew as an individual, and relished in the sense of freedom and exploration. This cozy dwelling holds precious memories that shaped my journey.
The two words associated with this cottage, ‘house’ and ‘home’, elicit powerful emotional responses. A ‘house’ serves as a physical structure, while a ‘home’ encompasses a sense of belonging and personal connection.
Throughout history, artists have been inspired by the unique architecture of houses and the concept of ‘home’. They have captured the essence of these spaces, conveying the warmth and comfort that they provide.
Initially, I considered recreating the cottage’s exterior exactly as I remembered it, on a life-size scale. However, I decided to take a more measured approach. By starting small and gradually working my way up, I can gain a deeper understanding of the scale, materials, size, and overall process involved in bringing the cottage to life.
With only a few small photographs and my memory to guide me, I began by making relief stencils of the exterior walls. I created these stencils in six different sizes, ranging from 0.25 cm to 2 inches for every 1 foot of the actual size of the walls. To make the stencils, I used wood pulp donated by Canadian Forest Products Ltd.
During the papermaking process, the overlapping screens create a subtle grid formation on each finished piece of the house. This grid formation imparts a distinctive quality, evocative of an archaeological dig or a serene prairie landscape. Each complete house comprises nine exterior walls and is constructed without interior walls or roofs, resulting in sturdy and grounded structures. (Refer to photos 6 and 7 for visual examples)
One of the aspects I admired the most about each house piece was its sensuous quality before it was manipulated to build the model house. The inside was smooth, while the outside had a rough texture. Preserving these essential characteristics became an important part of my process. I successfully captured the organic quality of each house piece without losing the identity of the original house. To accentuate their delicacy and fragility, I hung each house piece on invisible threads. This method effectively emphasized their beauty.
The smallest house
The “Home Making” exhibition at Two Rivers Gallery, Prince George, BC is centered around the memories of the Smallest House and the eventual destruction of both the house and its associated memories as it reintegrated into the environment and landscape once more.
After completing the exterior of the house, I shifted my attention to the interior, specifically the kitchen. I used full-scale appliances, furniture, and various kitchen accessories. I opted to craft these objects from paper pulp. This added an interesting texture to the work but also provided an eco-friendly alternative. The result was a visually stunning and sustainable kitchen that balanced reality with an ephemeral quality .
Two exhibitions resulted from the house explorations: