Warm Memory

Update: June 18, 2015 Interview From I to We: Arts, Gentrification, and Community Building in Logan Square by Jennifer Patiño Cervantes, Sixty Inches From Center

My intention with this installation was to create an experience for the audience that allows them to feel the community networks and connections that anchor individuals to a neighborhood. Giving physicality to the invisible ties that bind and create our home within the community.

“One never reaches home, but wherever friendly paths intersect the whole world looks like home for a time.” – Herman Hesse

Art is my conduit for understanding how I relate to our world and by creating objects and installations, my hopeful intention is to provoke the audience into rethinking about how they relate to the world. Since 2010, I’ve focused on the idea of home vs. house with the threads of memory, connection, displacement and community appearing in my creative practice. This subject is close to my being, having moved 27 times in my life, living the last 10 years in every corner of the 60647 zip code, the longest I’ve continuously lived anywhere.

This piece was a site-specific installation created in the Hairpin Arts Center, a flat-iron building at the heart of the 6 corner intersection of Milwaukee/Diversey/Kimball. The house-like structure was modeled to  fit exactly in the pie-shaped corner of the space and its perspective. 40,000 linear feet of string was used to create the idea of a home that the audience could walk inside of and experience the shift of scale and perspective as they moved toward the nose of the building that looks directly out on to the Logan Square neighborhood. Strings connected the structure and the walls of the space, making it feel like it was connected neighborhood outside the windows.

By my standard, it was a successful piece by the way people engaged with it, both during the process of creation and when it was complete. It took a 1.5 weeks, 16 hour days to complete and people could see me from the windows at the busy intersection. For that week I felt like I became part of the corners daily routine as I worked and other went about their routines. Also, I had the assistance of friends and the support of other artists to help me achieve my goal. Without them, I could not have completed it, just like the creation of a home is not a solitary endeavor, even though there are moments when you may feel alone or toil by yourself, the next day comes and your people see the progress and lend their hands for a few hours give you a sense of encouragement and love that keep you moving forward, no matter how incredibly difficult or impossible that it might seem at the moment. The process of creating the piece became a reinforcing metaphor of what a home means: the collection of relationships, memories, love, support and feeling of security and comfort.

When the piece was open to the public, that idea of home widened. The piece mimicked the physical space of a house, yet did not provide any of the physical protection of the elements like a house would. Children ran through it and touched it. People meditated in it and bands played music in it. Individuals told me what it meant to them and shared feelings that it evoked as they experienced it. My interpretation was secondary and I only shared pieces as it was malleable over the course of the pieces existence. I listened to hours of people’s stories about how it made them feel, how they’ve seen the neighborhood change, memories of their homes, how it felt like a ceremonial space, etc. It evoked a comfortable space where people could feel honest, much like they feel in their home.

Chicago Reader: Re<new>all Arts page feature by Aimee Levitt, April 9th, 2015

A special thank you to the Hairpin Arts Center, Nando Espinosa Herrerra, Attitude7, Peaceflowartistry, Stacy Petersen, Pei San Ng, David Eddie, Kristina Klein, Pam Debord, Joe DeBord, Dan Russell and Justin Vaughn for your support, love, lending hands and all the laughs.