Sunday, September 25, 2011
The Barn Project
With the Barn Project I am blending sunlight, nocturnal suburban glow, and electric light sources through scrims, frames and numerous apertures/leaks —rotting gaps, separations, knotholes, doors, and windows--of a two-stall horse barn situated on what was once part of a larger walnut grove in the oldest part of suburban Northridge in the San Fernando Valley. Presently, citrus trees (predominantly oranges) and a handful of others (walnuts, palms and a maple) surround this rustic structure at the southwest corner of our one-acre lot--a property that’s been with Jennifer’s family since 1947. In 1954, her grandparents raised this very barn as my mother-in-law’s eleven-year-old footprints indicate in what was once the tack room floor.
For the past fifty-seven years or so, natural conditions and human involvement have shaped the history of this site. A relentless valley climate—copious sunshine; desert heat/aridity; Santa Ana winds; deluging rains; occasional floods and earthquakes—all have played significant roles in the barn’s superficial and structural demise. These events can be traced through fading/peeling red paint, rusting nails, rotting boards, separating knots/seams, and shifting angles. Additional marks/artifacts remain from its previous list of occupants—horses, chickens, rabbits, rodents, wasps, hornets, spiders and termites of which many of the latter still thrive. It is in just such a “sub-rural” context (stable, coop, shed, and now studio) that I continue to explore art and architectural relationships through light and material interventions.
In early 2010, not sure whether to raze or raise such a dilapidated structure, I began to slowly excavate the site. I removed massive accumulations of stored “stuff” from inside, ripped out wallboards, dug out yards of dirt from the compacted floors, and patched certain sections with painted white boards backed with reflective Mylar. Around the perimeter, I cleared and sorted piles of hard and soft materials for future repurposing. I subsequently constructed two porticos for storing some of those items. While often a process of uncertainty, I have always been sure of my interest in the barn’s ruinous, ephemeral beauty—fading colors and rotting materials—as well as its resonance with similar, rural structures of my southern Wisconsin childhood. Much less important than any autobiographical details, however, is the way in which light permeates such a structure--how it intersects specific materials in order to heighten variable, temporal rhythms through color and shadow as much as how light emerges complicit in its demise.
Lately the improved “flow ” of its spaces and a reduction of literal/figurative burdens has led me to feel like I’m providing comfort measures for the nearly departed, especially when, for example, the interior gets flooded by volumes of rainwater. When doubts subside, however, it’s a place to contemplate the ongoing collision of histories: artistic, architectural, social, geological et al.
It has been my intent to maintain the overall character of this barn in order to appreciate its qualities “as-is”, to reuse it for my own inquiries as well as to eventually invite others to interpret this place with some notion of collaboration in mind. And so it is in such a spirit that I welcome guests to celebrate passing phases—placeholders--of a work in process.