I Spent Some Time at Home lovingly, critically reflects on the ways that my maternal grandparents intertwined aesthetic and creative practices with notions of economic and social stability and survival. My grandfather was a carpenter and immigrant from Sicily, my grandmother an American from a poor and emotionally fraught family, and their home was a site full of the aspirational and resourceful (though politically fraught) aesthetic of (white) poor/working-class social climbing. By the time of my early childhood, my grandmother had developed a creative (but nonprofessional) practice of home decorating, and my grandfather was often found remodeling bathrooms and kitchens in his or other family homes. Having attained some security and raised three formally educated children, the appearance of their home and the homes of their extended family was not only a key source of pride and expression, but also a point of economic and class anxiety. Keenly selected elements like flocked wallpaper, velvet curtains, marble tiles, and faux crystal drawer pulls were often present, nodding to a certain perception of wealth. But these elements were always homemade approximations of more stylish items or sourced from suburban commercial outlets like Joanne’s Fabric and Home Depot. The work of doctoring, or elevating these affordable options with skills like hand painting, stenciling, re-upholstering, and wood working then came in to play to transform these details into personalized, creative expressions of home and authorship.
In these works, I’ve enacted this same logic, but combined carefully chosen mass-produced home décor elements like bathroom tiles and functional details like hooks and drawer pulls with hand-woven beadwork, handmade jewelry, and ceramic sculpture. All “doctored” together on the backdrop of a painting panel, I’ve played with the aesthetic and cultural power dynamics between these elements and employed skills ranging from novice or expertise. These wavering degrees of skill reflect not only gaps and strengths across my academic training but also the gendered barriers to learning skills both within the home and at art school. With consideration for ideas of function, skill, ornament, and taste, these pieces are horizontal explorations into the relationships between these materials and classed ways of making, aided by the functional promiscuity of working-class decoration.