What is Home?

Returning to my studio is a luxury of retirement. Retirement has also presented me with  the opportunity to join other artists in collaboration. After many years of being an artist working as a nurse, I’m now an artist working with other artists to create exhibitions., Currently, I’m part of Playground Gallery, a group of students, graduates, and instructors from Portland’s Pacific Northwest College of Art (PNCA). 

24″ x 18″ x 1 1/2″ oil on panel, 2022 by Julianna Paradisi

Last month, we produced a group exhibition, Home, in a pop-up gallery in the Pearl District. The artwork expressed the diversity of the meaning of home. The artist statements about Home were collected and published into a book documenting the exhibition. 

Below is my essay about home, created for the exhibition. The painting is one of the three I made, included in the exhibition. 

Let me know in the comments what home means to you.

What is Home?

I’m writing these words at a desk inside a vintage Airstream trailer, not far from my home. The Airstream was thoughtfully refurbished for comfort. It oozes with hygge, a Norwegian word meaning, “to give courage, comfort, joy”. 

Yet, this is not my home. I feel a mild sense of displacement. The Airstream is lovely, but it is not my home.

I temporarily rented the Airstream as a DIY artist residency; purposely displacing myself in an effort to rediscover my voice. 

My permanent home is a safe, warm place. I share it with someone I love. But, over many years, its safety and security has lulled me into a state of dissolution. Somehow, I’ve lost the perception of my own edges; the awareness of where others end, and I begin.

What is home? Is it a place, a person? 

Or is home something I carry within myself?

People love saying that home is wherever they are happy and at peace, or the place they share with people (or animals) they love. Perhaps this is true, but such definitions of home neglect to take into account the sense of displacement and disorientation which occur when people are removed from their physical homes, their land, or their communities, either in search of happiness and peace, or due to circumstances they cannot control, such as war.

The people they love might accompany them, but these loved ones are also experiencing the loss of home. They too are displaced, creating emotional isolation between them. The new place doesn’t feel like home.

Home is a feeling that attaches itself to a specific place and time. By leaving that place, we interrupt established patterns and relationships. The feeling of home needs time to resettle itself into the new place to reignite. Eventually, the old patterns and habits are adapted or new ones created to suit the new place. This transition requires time, and sometimes healing.

It’s necessary then, to experience the uncomfortable feelings of displacement before a new sense of home can take root.

However, sometimes it’s not the person who moves, but the home itself changes, creating a different kind of displacement or disorientation. For instance, a relationship ends during a length of time when home is no longer filled with love, but with angry words, tears, yelling, or sometimes violence. Under these conditions, home is no longer safe or secure. 

Or, a community changes, leaving emotional scars on the psyches of its citizens. Violence, arson, and gunshots take their toll on once beloved streets, now abandoned like a neglected wife. 

My week-long residency in the Airstream is coming to an end. By now, the feelings of displacement have subsided. As I hoped, I rediscovered my voice and my edges. In the process I created new patterns adapted to this place; some I will bring home.

What is home? 

The noun home is defined in the dictionary in many ways, but I am fond of this definition in particular:

A place where something flourishes.

Home means different things to people, but for all of us, home should be a place or relationship where we flourish.


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