These photographs of an old farmhouse on my family’s property are markers of the lives of a Nebraska family in the early 20th century. The house remains long after the original family, the Potters, lived there.
At first I was frightened of the old house and of possible dangers posed by wild animals and birds, collapsing ceilings, or loose floorboards with rusty nails. I also was uneasy about trespassing in the Potter family’s house, even though they were long gone from the place. As I became more comfortable walking into the house, I began to notice things like fragments of furniture, multiple kinds of wallpaper, and remains of cardboard and horsehair that had been used as insulation. On the exterior of the house I studied disintegrating layers of boards, paint, screening, nails, and shingles. I could track evidence of the hands that had built and decorated the house, as well of as those who had vandalized it. On one visit I discovered bits of newspapers, some from 1918, that had floated down to the ground through the collapsing attic floor. Nothing was stable; things that were revealed one year changed or disappeared the next.
The house is an object that has been shaped by the original owners, by harsh winters and sweltering summers, by raccoons, birds, insects, and rot, and vandals. My goal as an artist is to cherish the physicality and inherent beauty of the farmhouse as a place that once sheltered a family and is now crumbling.
Click on an image for slideshow.
© 2021 Pat James