August 7 through 31, 2021
By LORIEN SUÁREZ-KANERVA, August 2021
Carlye Packer’s House Parté opened on August 7-31 at a pink Meiselman house in downtown Palm Springs. The site-specific installation held several artworks by John Waters, the iconic Pink Flamingos filmmaker. Packer’s curatorial objective focused on the concept of home alongside consumerism and a culture of excess. But she later shared, “there was no exact vision. I’m interested in how others interpret the show without prescription.” Noted phenomenologist Gaston Bachelard through the poetics of the home space, reflects on daydreaming alongside dwelling experiences. Values evolve from an emerging consciousness of a “non-I” that shelters the “I.”
Artists George Rouy and Helen Teede weighed in on anthropocentrism’s polemic with compositions of solitary figures. Emily Barker sensitizes the audience to the existential realities of the disabled. Together, they spoke about the meaning of home, creative beginnings, and the materialist expressions of dwelling experiences.
LORIEN SUÁREZ-KANERVA: Can you share some of your childhood experiences with daydreaming? Are these meaningful today?
Rouy: Imagination as a child was always a big thing, as was play within the imaginary world. I remember playing a lot around the house - no toys - pretending I was certain characters, maybe inspired by what I watched on TV. I am endlessly indulging in my world, I spend a lot of time on my own in the studio and am ultimately painting figures with a particular presence, and I’m always searching for links in the work. That can become an abstract activity - the works are not directly portraits.
Teede: My parents were researchers in Zimbabwe’s national parks, so I grew up in the bush. My daydreams involved playing with bones and soil and stones, creating worlds peopled with insects and other animals. It was a kind of daydreaming that let the materials lead in the storytelling. As a painter, I rely on a fascinated observation of the world, an openness to chance, and flexibility toward being led in unexpected directions. You draw the materials and discoveries out of the daydream and channel them into a particular focus to make something that communicates intimately and universally to the outside world. In the end, the work must participate in the human (and more-than-human) collective. It can’t remain a whimsical daydream.
Barker: Daydreaming is important. It’s an ability to visualize what you want, what’s captivating, and can improve things. Daydreaming is the closest I get to relaxing. Being capable of imagining something better is important.
LORIEN SUÁREZ-KANERVA: How is a dwelling space important? Do these affect you? Were there values that influenced your experience sharing a dwelling?
Rouy: When I think about home, the main areas I spend time in are ritualistic - kitchen, bath, bedroom. The bath is a sensory experience –in a non-human object, womb-like. You’re contained. The bath takes on life more than an object. It’s warm, sensual. Only when I moved to London did I share a home with others. There was a shift in sharing - co-existing with people who weren’t family. At first, it feels like there are no rules, and then when I lived with my partner, the dynamic changed. But continuing some of the ways of living childhood held. Elements of what it means to be at home. Comfort. Lots of time in bed working - painting, revising…reading, researching, drawing…A safe spot.
Teede: I did spend some of my childhood in a raw-material house. The walls were made of stone, the roof of thatch and the floor clay. It had a porous relationship with the outside.
Barker: It’s something I create for myself. My bedroom and small spaces are my sanctuaries. I’m not able to navigate space that doesn’t account for my body. I haven’t felt the same magic towards living spaces. I know I can change things with the right help. It’s important despite the challenge to create it.
LORIEN SUÁREZ-KANERVA: Your painting’s title, “Muddied Feet,” describes a universal experience for most humans. Is this figure personal, or does the observer figure in your concept?
Rouy: The aspect of the feet is about being grounded. I was thinking about the energy between the foot, touch, weight. It’s a reference to my home garden, my partner, walking in and out barefoot - a personal observation of gardening. It’s not about nature; it’s about someone being grounded.
LORIEN SUÁREZ-KANERVA: You’ve commented on “a sense of frustration and things being broken” evident in your figure’s arrangement in a painting. What aspects of life can you connect to the painting? I noticed features on the face, the body, and its parts. Is this figure defined by gender, race, age, sexual identity?
Rouy: The moment the figures feel disjointed, stretched allows entry into the work in a different way. How I see it and hope the viewer does is that there are intuitive triggers in the paintings - how the body can feel bent, broken, contorted. These can be non-narrative but connect the viewer’s anatomy to the painting. When it comes to intimacy or human connection, touch, with two humans, how do you experience that? A photo of hugging, kissing, embracing is different from how your mind can connect and experience that. I want to emphasize elements of bodily experience through intuitive visual triggers and resulting imaginative acts. I think all the figures are undefined. That is not to say I am not committed to the figures. I have my judgment as to their gender role, and I think the viewer[s] can make that judgment for themselves. Sometimes, the work feels distant from the cause but nonetheless relevant. There are subtitles to life that are important and sustain us. When it comes to identity, we need to identify our role - we all experience the same issues and problems from different positions. It is a very personal question of how we each respond or act. The work is not there to make the decision for you.
LORIEN SUÁREZ-KANERVA: Materialist philosopher, Jane Bennett, reflected that if humans could appreciate being materials and processes in nature themselves, greater social equality and environmental responsibility could follow. How does the exterior world influence your artwork?
Teede: The natural world feels like more of a shelter to me than any house. It is where my values and norms originated and draw me to the discourse among ecofeminists, climate scientists, and phenomenologists who situate the human as entangled in the “flesh” of the world as one species among many and not apart from it. It involves an ethos of communal care that isn’t recognized as important in a system that rewards individual success. Painting is a solitary activity but also a kind of storytelling and communal sharing. There’s this dance between periods of loneliness and togetherness.
LORIEN SUÁREZ-KANERVA: Does this rug have personal associations? Was the weaving process significant for you? Why did you include hidden items? Can you describe areas of life experience, especially drawing from your advocacy work for the disabled, and how it’s connected with your artwork?
Barker: When my accident happened, I was slapped in the face with the reality of living in a world that refused to account for my body and access needs. I was hooked up to IV tubing for the past ten years. The rug is made from 2000 ft of this tubing, symbolizing my time hospitalized. The conductive copper wire is a conduit of the electricity pumping through your body, connecting synapses. It’s what keeps you living, thinking, and dreaming. The material needed to be thick so I could trip people walking on it. I was an artist before becoming disabled, and advocacy happened out of necessity. I can’t work from the perspective of normalcy. My work reflects my consciousness since there’s no other way. It’s very personal. It’s made to be a seductive obstacle for people who walk to experience difficulties moving. I can’t get through sand, grass, snow, or gravel. It’s representing inaccessible surfaces that keep me segregated. While being incredibly nice to lay on. Weaving was done communally with the help of friends. My life is livable because of help from people dedicated to my right to live and who want to change the world with me—the headphones and a doggy bag deal with noise and shit.
LORIEN SUÁREZ-KANERVA: What do you think it’ll take for environments to change and accommodate the disabled? Have you encountered resistance as an advocate?
Barker: When my accident happened, when I was 19, no one spoon-fed or coddled me. Sweeping policy measures and widespread understanding are necessary. Many need to acknowledge the extreme difficulties a world built to exclude us with policies that impoverish us. Often unconscious bias and ableism get in the way. There’s the expectation for the disabled to do all the work to change them and the system. I hope people are receptive to work to change it.
House Parté successfully explored concepts such as identity, imagination, and the emergence of social norms through the participation of a diverse array of artists who contributed perspectives on social concerns that are critical for audiences today. WM
As a Geometric Abstract artist, Lorien Suárez-Kanerva explores the dynamic interplay of color, light, and geometric patterns found in nature and the cosmos. A Retrospective of Lorien’s work titled “Coalescing Geometries” won First Place in Non-Fiction at the 2019 International Latino Book Awards. She has exhibited in several curated solo and group shows in NYC, Los Angeles, and Miami. Her artwork appears at International Art Fairs and educational centers including Florida Atlantic University, Boca Raton Museum of Art, and UC Berkeley’s Engineering Department. Lorien resides in Palm Desert, California.view all articles from this author