It’s been said that “50 percent of the people in the world feel homesick all the time.” Thus, it could be true that the feeling is equated not only with geographical distance but also a state of mind. That notion is explored this month in the Carnegie Art Museum’s exhibit “Homesick.” Curated by New York-based artist Joaquin Trujillo in partnership with longtime friend and Oxnard native Brian Paumier, the exhibit is a study on how homesickness can transcend the boundaries of places and times.
Featuring the works of 15 contemporary artists, “Homesick” offers a wide-ranging approach in painting, sculpture and photography to the experiences of bicoastal living as well as to the idea of a melancholy that has little to do with space and more with a universal experience expressed in the form of fleeting memories, sometimes of places and people we have never known.
The underlying component in the exhibit is the evident nostalgia conveyed throughout the work. The ambiguity of our memory is clearly communicated in powerful visual narratives — from the intentionally out-of-focus photographs by Edward Doty to the mysterious murkiness of Brooklyn-based artist Amy Elkins’ prints that incorporate text abundant with layered meaning. Similarly, in Malú Alvarez’s series of large photographs of details of food, “Between Where I Live and Home,” the artist freezes a particular memory in time but subtly reveals the fact that her recollection is indeed disjointed and impermanent. Tinged with melancholy, Brian Paumier’s image of a large bowl of sauce-drenched spaghetti on the counter of a cozy kitchen emphasizes the notion that his interpretation of a personal memory, associated with his grandmother, indicates his own perception of that memory, not the memory itself.
A more tactile example of that notion is Derick Melander’s “tower” of carefully folded clothing, standing at 7 1/2 feet and consisting of 600 pounds of Trujillo’s and his relatives’ clothes. Demanding closer inspection, the sculpture becomes a modern-day quilt that free-stands instead of hanging on the wall. “Clothes retain a trace of the person,” says Melander, “from the worn-out elbows of a sweater to the tattered cuffs of a pair of jeans.” The geometric sculpture thus becomes Melander’s portrait of Trujillo, assembled on site, and expresses the artist’s visual exploration of homesickness.
The partnership between Trujillo and Paumier, who currently shoot for periodicals and editorials like the New York Times magazine, began while they were students at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, 12 years ago. They have chosen artists who share the idea that homesickness isn’t necessarily a geographical notion but an internal experience. Having recently accomplished his goal of moving to New York, Trujillo admits that the feeling of homesickness is deeply felt even when friends and family surround him. “Homesick for me is my time in L.A., not so much missing Mexico,” says Trujillo, who was raised there until the age of 11, “but the nostalgia that comes along with accomplishing my dream.”
The exhibit is fresh with innovative approaches and young artistic styles, like “Saturday Landscape” by Federico Gutierrez Schott — a hand drawing on the walls of the museum, it depicts common scenes from memories of Northern Mexico where he grew up. “I explore my relationship to places and situations but not to people,” admits the artist, whose drawings intentionally leave out people, reiterating the notion that homesickness tends to lack specificity. Schott keeps the imagery simple and straightforward in order to best render the abstract idea of memory in his own personal visual language.
Although eclectic in style and vision, the ability of the artists to consistently solidify the ephemeral quality of disjointed memories — communicating nostalgia, melancholy and longing — is remarkable. “Homesick” tells a story of a yearning through visually engaging imagery that is easily identifiable and speaks of a universal human trait that goes well beyond what we call home.
“Homesick” runs through Feb. 21. Carnegie Art Museum, 424 S. C St., Oxnard, 385-8157.