the “Smallest House Known to Man”

I embarked on an investigation of my personal history using an archaeological approach. I recreated the first house in which 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, like the houses in which many people begin their adult lives. Here, I made art, ran a business, had a child, became part of a community, matured and enjoyed a wonderful sense of freedom and exploration.

The two words associated with this cottage, ‘house’ and ‘home’ certainly elicit powerful emotional responses. A ‘house’ creates an envelope around the soul to create a ‘home’. Artists from every era have been inspired by the architecture of ‘houses’ and the subject of ‘home’.

Initially, I wanted to make the exterior of the house just as I remembered it and in life-size. However, I thought I should work my way up from very small to full size, to get an idea of scale, materials, size, and process. All I had to go by was a few small photographs and my memory. I started by making relief stencils of the exterior walls to the exact proportions of the original walls of the house as I remembered them, with all the exterior features added. I made stencils of the exterior walls in 6 sizes from .25cm:1 ft, .25 in:1ft, .5in:1ft, 1in:1ft, 1.5in:1ft, 2in:1ft. These stencils were cast with wood pulp donated from Canadian Forest Products Ltd.

The papermaking process of overlapping screens left a subtle grid formation on each finished house piece, which is reminiscent of an archaeological dig or prairie landscape. Each complete house has 9 exterior walls. The house pieces were assembled without interior walls or roofs, creating houses that have a solid, grounded presence. (See photos 6 and 7)

I loved the sensuous quality of each house piece before it was manipulated to build the model house—smooth on the inside, rough on the outside. Preserving these essential characteristics became an important part of my process. I successfully captured the organic quality of the individual house pieces without losing the identity of the original house by hanging each house piece in the conformation of the original house. Hanging the house pieces on invisible threads effectively emphasized their delicacy and fragility.

After completing the exterior of the house, I began the interior focusing on the kitchen using full  scale appliances, furniture and kitchen accessories to cast the objects from wood pulp.

Two exhibitions resulted from the house explorations:  Home Making, Broken Paths  and videos:  Homemaking, floating, and Return to Sender