Tim Kennedy / Inside / Outside

Over the past six years the Craftsman bungalow that we live in has gradually become the unspoken character in most of my paintings. Our house was built in 1920 and is probably a Sears home. It is a storey and a half and is a little larger than many of the surrounding houses in our working class neighborhood. By contemporary standards the house is very small. An elderly neighbor referred to our house as the “Parsonage” when we moved in. This is something we have heard from other people as well, but we are unsure of which church the house belonged to. Our foundation, like those of our neighbors, is made from limestone. Bloomington was a major producer of limestone during the last century. I imagine that many of the houses in our neighborhood belonged to the stonecutters working at limestone processing plants in the area.

I am drawn to the paradoxes of Craftsman design in part because they are the same paradoxes that make up America. It is at once idealistic and practical. It embodies the polar American impulses toward the utopian and the commercial equally. It was born out of revulsion toward industrialization and mass production – and ended up embracing them both. Craftsman ideals value simplicity of design, transparency of construction and primacy of materials. At the turn of the last century bungalow living represented modern America’s yearnings for an autonomous, private existence – but it is also the model for suburban sprawl. There was a social component built into a neighborhood of bungalows. The houses are set closely together and near the street, which lent neighborhoods a sense of community.

Our house and many of the surrounding houses have front porches – most with a glider suspended from chains. It is possible to converse with people passing on the sidewalk from our front porch during the summer and to see people on the other porches. Three enormous silver maples shade our back yard – another grows in the front. A little garage behind the house was converted into an apartment by the previous owner; I now use it as a studio. A gravel alley runs behind our property. The neighbor to our rear raises chickens (including a very noisy rooster) in a coop along the alley. Many of the other neighbors are students; each comes with an obligatory garage band – some good, others not so good.
      
The house is my leitmotif. How light and air permeate and surround it. Its posture on the street. How nature asserts itself in our slightly ratty yard and barely tended gardens. The piling up of accumulated objects finding their place in its interior. The patterns of quotidian domesticity. The uses that rooms are put to: cooking, sleeping, eating, reading, games, bathing, sex. The pleasures afforded by stacked rooms glimpsed through doorways or odd exterior views against foliage. Figures arranged against and within its spaces that mirror our life together.  Strictly speaking, this type of wood frame architecture is not something of my time, but I am still drawn to it. I treasure its nestlike spaces, the warmth of the wood it is built from, how its forms are substantial yet simultaneously defy gravity and, most importantly, how the entire ensemble holds light.
                                                                                              
Tim Kennedy
Bloomington / 2005
 

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