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.