August 2, 2011
Nostalgia as Inspiration
When I visit the Jersey shore, childhood memories come bubbling up: the delicious honeysuckle whose nectar my father taught us to sip...
The library of my youthful summers; one summer in particular stays with me, which I spent combing the stacks for any and every book on myths of different cultures...
The homes with porches filled with summer furniture, a table set aside for a picture puzzle for rainy days. All these things and more touch my heart. In his novel Ignorance, Milan Kundera explores the concept of nostalgia, and how it affects those who left their homes in Czechoslovakia with the takeover of the communists and their feeling about return in 1989. In his second chapter he writes "The Greek word for 'return' is nostos. Algos means 'suffering'. So nostalgia is the suffering caused by an unappeased yearning to return." A simpler definition might be a "longing for home". The word nostalgia, which I think expresses a beautiful feeling, has been diminished and belittled by being associated with the excessively sentimental.
My earliest exhibited work consisted of paintings of domestic architecture, which allowed me to balance the strong planar geometries with architectural details. When I began doing this series I thought of it in those abstract terms, not considering the emotional coloring that comes with lived-in houses. After some time, though, I realized that my childhood summers at the shore had a tremendous influence on my choice of subject matter: my parents would take us on drives to look at houses in towns around Bradley Beach, where they were likely to be large and beautiful. From a young age I was taught to notice and admire the domestic architecture of small towns.
As years passed, I began to include the landscape around houses and outbuildings, and my focus slowly shifted to the agricultural landscape and then to its implements. But I believe that my nostalgia, my sweet feeling, for the architecture of summer was a powerful force in my early painting choices. Have any of you been inspired by your "longing for home"?