The gallery was empty for a while. My studio – or something resembling it – had been housed there for a month. With a lot of help, I had packed up my easel, drafting table, flat files and all my stuff into three vehicles and was ready to head back to my real studio. Before leaving, I looked back and took a snapshot of the empty gallery. For a moment, it was as if all the moments I had spent there were compressed. I could see the gallery as it had been and could almost hear the many conversations that had taken place. It was like a collage of images and spoken words – me, with my stories and others, with theirs.
I had included a lot of images in the installation and, because it was a residency, I was present to explain them. They were mostly images that had to do with where I’m from – the seaside town of St. Ives, in Cornwall. Many of these images provoked questions, so I often found myself sharing stories about my rather complicated relationship with the town, its histories and people. In some ways, I think, the work is complete during these conversations. Standing before a picture, I can tell the story behind the image and something of its deeper meaning is revealed. This, in turn, often prompts people to share their own stories and ideas, leading me to alter my presumptions, and change my perspectives.
People came from many different places with many different viewpoints to the Kimball Gallery during my residency. Like me, they had stories to tell about home, time and returning. In my own story, I had returned recently to the house I was born in, hoping to get inside. However, because I was never given permission to enter, much of my recent work has been about my experience of being literally, and in the broader sense, outside, looking in. Standing outside the house I was born in, I remembered images, sounds and conversations from my childhood. Describing this to people, in turn, led to many rich and varied conversations. There were people who were glad they were able to return and go inside. There were several who went inside and wish they hadn’t. There were people who would not want to return, and there were also those who could not – for emotional, economic, or political reasons, return to the place that they’re from. It made me wonder if we can ever really return. In the words of Thomas Wolfe, you can’t go home again. The place we’re from, I think, is a sort of paradox – it is always with us and always without us.
One day, some months before my residency began at the de Young, I was walking through the museum. I was on my own, thinking about the ideas I would be working on during the residency. I knew that I would be representing my studio as a place where I’d be working and thinking about where I’m from – but I was thinking about other people, too. After all, I thought, everyone is from somewhere. When we meet someone, we ask ‘Where are you from?’ My head was full of ideas about this but, as I was walking through the lobby, I began to hear the voices of people walking past me. They often had distinctly regional accents or different languages from my own. There were people not only from various parts of this country but various parts of the world. For a moment, the museum lobby seemed almost like an airport. Then I remembered the world maps you sometimes see in airports, showing flight trajectories criss-crossing the globe, and it occurred to me that I could make a map of the world describing where I and other people are from. We could make images of remembered places or people and connect them to that place in the world. I pictured a map that tells stories of places and people who converged for a time in a room at the de Young museum, leaving images and lines to describe the place where they are from, like trajectories of memory.
So I drew the map of the world on a large canvas, leaving a margin for myself and others to add an image in pencil, and included it in the installation. Many people have since drawn images with flight lines to show where they’re from. In the evening, after everyone has gone, I look at the images and follow the lines. There are many surprising images and the lines lead to many different places. These, I think, are flights of the imagination.
The theme of my residency at the de Young is the studio as a place of imagining. In this case it’s about where I’m from. It involves a reconstruction of my studio, unfinished, as if it is still being built. I transported my studio furniture, work in progress and a lot of my stuff to the museum for the installation, so it feels like my ‘real’ studio, even though it isn’t. Sitting at my drawing table, painting, in the reconstruction of my studio and thinking about where I’m from, I sometimes forget where I am. Then, I look out at the trees in the Concourse and I remember. It’s quite a view!
As the de Young Museum is closed on Mondays, I decided to head back home to Santa Cruz, where my real studio is. I needed some things from my studio and I wanted to touch base. I thought about going into the studio. The door to the studio is closed and I found I had mixed feelings about entering. My real studio is almost empty and nothing that’s there is in its place – I had boxed everything up and left in a hurry. It was a mess. Eventually, I found what I needed and headed back to the representation of my studio at the de Young. As I drove back on Highway 1, looking out at the ocean, I realized I could not wait to get to work. In fact, I thought, I was already at work and that the ‘studio’, whether real, reconstructed, or in the imagination, is as much a state of mind as a real place.
Ian Everard was born in St Ives, Cornwall, England, where the waves crash over the housetops. It is a place that sounds fantastical in many ways like something you would hear about in the film Big Fish. He revisits this place through his work by recreating historical photographs in meticulous detail – accurate, but incomplete.
Searching through his own history, he began to think about birthplace and our connection to our first home, about memory and imagination, reality and reconstruction. What do we truly remember of our birthplaces and how have we adjusted those memories over the years?
During his residency at the de Young museum, Everard will create and present finished works and works in progress about where he is from. Yet, his story is just a starting point; the artist is interested in creating a space open to other peoples’ stories. Museum visitors will be invited to share their connections to their own origins as part of the installation. Thoughts and memories will become a visual and multimedia installation through drawings, written and spoken word, and video.