STORY WRITTEN BY TARA LYNN JOHNSON
For 21st Century Media
What is home? Some say it’s where the heart is. Others, where you hang your hat. Some equate home with family; others, comfort and cozy surroundings. Home means something different to everyone, and the “Good Neighbors” exhibit at the Philip and Muriel Berman Museum of Art of Ursinus College explores how several artists define it.
The works touch on themes of family, intimacy, nostalgia, and domesticity, and also how the artists are “good neighbors” by being supportive to each other and to the world around them.
The artists and works featured include: large-scale installations by Kay Healy and Raphael Fenton-Spaid; sculptures by Christina P. Day, Drew Leshko, and Lewis Colburn; photographs by Kelsey Halliday Johnson and Sarah Kaufman; video by Cari Freno; and paintings by Emily Smith Satis, Becky Suss, and Seneca Weintraut.
Healy, of Philadelphia, is the Visiting Assistant Professor of Painting and Printmaking at Ursinus. Her stuffed-fabric installations use a range of media, including drawing, screen-printing, and sculpture to explore the tension between the inevitability of change and the pull of memory and nostalgia, according to a press release. Through her art, Healy investigates themes of home, transience, and the search for stability in an ever-changing world, according to her website.
Her “Good Neighbors” contribution: three two-dimensional “rooms” — a dining room, a kitchen, and a bathroom — with 20 to 30 smaller handmade three-dimensional pieces in each. Her process: she screen prints onto fabric to make life-sized furniture objects, then stuffs them and places them in the large installations. The pieces look like quilts, but they’re more three-dimensional.
Objects in the “rooms” include toilet bowls, cupboards, cabinets, and more. There’s a story for each object — Healy interviewed four people from Philadelphia, varying in age and background, and asked them to describe their childhood homes. From those descriptions, she re-created the objects.
“I’m interested in how other people relate to their homes that no longer exist,” she said.
People have varying memories, but one similarity among them stood out.
“In general, people place a lot of importance in objects you wouldn’t think of having high monetary value, like a telephone or a frying pan,” she said. “These mundane objects take on your own personal history and are elevated to a new sense of importance.”
The interviewees all had nostalgia for the past, as most people do, she said. Although there are parts of history that aren’t as pleasant, most had some joyful memories.
“All four people were very descriptive. They had vivid memories and could really walk you through it,” she said. “All of the objects that I make are gone. The only way they exist is in people’s minds.”
Healy appreciates the bond that her work helps to create.
“You can connect with someone else, with a part of their history that’s lost, but that still lives within their memory and now in a re-created object of it,” she said. “It’s exciting to see it in a physical form, even if it’s not the same, even if it’s made of fabric.”
And she likes showcasing everyday people.
“It’s nice to honor everybody. We tend to highlight celebrities and people who are famous,” she said. “I like how every single one of us has a story and a unique perspective of the world.”
IF YOU GO
What: “Good Neighbors”
Where: At the Philip and Muriel Berman Museum of Art at Ursinus College, 601 E. Main St., Collegeville.
When: Now through Jan. 11. A reception is set for 4 to 7 p.m. Oct. 23.
Hours: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tue.-Fri.; noon to 4 p.m. Sat.-Sun.
Info.: Call (610) 409-3500 or visit www.ursinus.edu.