|37 South Maple Avenue|
|Me on our porch, and my woods behind.|
When I was six, we moved to a building that had been the original schoolhouse in Essex Fells, NJ (left and below) where I spent my childhood. It too still stands, but no longer surrounded by woods that were my playground, and so exciting to a little girl.
We raised our own kids in a 1911 Queen Anne house in Montclair, where I once "saw" an Irish woman dressed in turn of the century clothes, in one the third floor bedrooms -- the old servants' quarters.
|The house where I grew up|
Probably as a result of these particular old houses, I have always loved them and the thought of the lives once lived within their walls. When they are abandoned, I find it hearbreaking, but fodder for wonderfully evocative paintings.
One of my very favorite books was The Little House, written by Virginia Lee Burton. (Sorry the clicking option from this Amazon image will not work here!) This classic childrens' book which won the Caldecott Prize in 1943, is still selling strongly. It begins "Once upon a time there was a Little House way out in the country. She was a pretty Little House and she was strong and well built." Amazon describes the book:
"The rosy-pink Little House, on a hill surrounded by apple trees, watches the days go, by from the first apple blossoms in the spring through the winter snows. Always faintly aware of the city's distant lights, she starts to notice the city encroaching on her bucolic existence. First a road appears, which brings horseless carriages and then trucks and steamrollers. Before long, more roads, bigger homes, apartment buildings, stores, and garages surround the Little House. Her family moves out and she finds herself alone in the middle of the city, where the artificial lights are so bright that the Little House can no longer see the sun or the moon. She often dreams of 'the field of daisies and the apple trees dancing in the moonlight.' Children will be saddened to see the lonely, claustrophobic, dilapidated house, but when a young woman recognizes her as an old family home and whisks her back to the country where she belongs, they will rejoice. Young readers are more likely to be drawn in by the whimsical, detailed drawings and the happy ending than by anything Burton might have been implying about the troubling effects of urbanization."
But this book stuck with me, and also with my daughter who says it influences her still today. It is probably one reason that I began a series of paintings of the disappearing barns and farmhouses in Vermont a few years ago, and why,from time to time, such as now, that I am still compelled to add to this series. As I watch this farming heritage disappear from the New England landscape through neglect, the elements, vandalism, fire etc., I feel a great sadness, and in my own way try to preserve a little of it at least on canvas. Because even the memories of lives lived in them are fast disappearing, and the only way these buildings will survive is through photographers and artists.
Here is one which I may have posted earlier.
|Windows Filled With Vanished Days 20" x 20" oil on canvas|
My children, when small, used to call them "sad houses." Often known simply as "the old so-and-so place," these remnants of the once-thriving farmsteads -- houses, barns, corn cribs, ice houses, root cellars -- have slowly gone fallow, like the land. Often all that remains is a stone cellar, some lilac bushes, old apple trees, tumbled down rock walls, rusted old plows, all speaking of lives once lived there. But many of the old wooden buildings themselves also still cling precariously to the land.
This is the painting I have been working on this week -- of a fragile, old house with nothing left of its past except a tattered lace curtain in one window. Soon I imagine only the brick of the foundation and chimney will be left.
|All Gone, All Gone 20" x 20" oil and graphite on canvas|
|Detail, All Gone All Gone|