"Welcome Home" Art Description
What does it mean to meet someone at their level and welcome them in? What does it mean to announce your arrival in space and time?
All Saints hired me to build a work of art that was also a sign. They wanted it to say “Welcome Home,” and wanted it to be a work of art.
I knew, of course, that any welcome home sign would have to have an element of sound. As Burning Man came and passed for another year, I hearkened to the awakenings to a week-long entry into an alternate universe. And, when you arrive, you’re greeted by Greeters who hug you, say “Welcome Home!” and have you ring a gong to announce that you, your being, your person in time, have arrived.
So there would be an element of sound. But if there was sound, then there would also be an element of silence and sight. And if silence and sight were around, then there would be sound with darkness.
But first, the sign. A theme at the church had been beauty in the desert or, rather, beauty in pain. So I thought of Portlanders who travel the American West in search of old barns. They’ll find a dilapidated barn, buy the wood, then take it apart. The wood is then returned to Portland, cleaned up, and resold to bars, businesses, whoever would like some old world beauty. So, for the sign base, I turned to a wood pile that’s been by my house for over a year, and that was weathered by normal times, ice storms, and heat domes. This was my canvas.
For this sign, I drew hands saying Welcome Home in American Sign Language. A beauty of the wood is that the hands came in varying skin shades, which is a true Welcoming. Below the sign language the words Welcome Home were painted in a handwriting typeface and, below that, I drilled in divots and placed jewels to write the words in braille. Then I tied it all together with a few hundred nails hammered around the words, and around which I wound string to both connect us together and represent the cat's cradle. We’re all connected, we’re all making things with our hands. We’re intertwined. It’s all a game.
There was also an element of hands in that I made this sign on my hands and knees, as it was too heavy for my easel, so I laid it on the floor and worked on it there.
From the nails I hung the chimes, as well as sticks that I plucked from the ocean beaches in Oregon, where they were smoothed and laid bare, and which I noticed gave off different sounds when hit, depending on their lengths and shapes. So while at the beach, I took an armful of long, smooth sticks home, tested them all, and hung the best with the chimes.
The sign is an interplay of elements. From the past to now in terms of renaissance painters hired by churches to a mom artist working alone in her studio, also hired by a church. The sign language hands, floating in space, are an homage to Perugino and his weird angel heads with wings. From sight to sound to touch, and the removal of one, and the combinations. To the different colors of hands. To the invitation to see, and to touch. To being welcomed, and announcing your arrival.
And from being a painting on the wall, to taking up space. When the viewer picks up a stick and strikes the wood and chimes, they ring out, and the sound vibrations move over a wider space, making the artwork bigger and bringing it to life. Like a sheet of music, the sign is complete when played.
My favorite part about the piece, though, is that it announces one’s arrival. When it’s struck, someone is saying “I am here. I have arrived. My soul exists in this space now. Come see me.” And that, to me, is the real beauty of the piece.