As an artist living in a society in transition, I was becoming concerned about the place of art in these shifting times. Relationships and visual experiences seem to be moving from real life to the virtual world, and I wondered whether art, galleries and the living artists of today were in danger of becoming disconnected from their own communities.
Then I discovered a traveling art project that renewed my faith in the power of art as a means of expression.
Porch Pieces is a conceptual art project created by British artist Bryony Graham who became fascinated with the culture of the American porch. (“People in England don’t sit on porches, it rains too much.”) She wondered if porches still made sense in an indoor culture saturated with TV and air conditioning so she constructed a portable porch in rural upstate New York and began exploring the culture of the area by transporting it throughout the countryside. She invited locals and passers-by for “porch chats”, recording the encounters in photos and on video and posting them on her blog.
I learned about Porch Pieces online, and decided to experience the project for myself.
As soon as I climbed the stairs, I was immediately transported back to a time when I used to listen to 45rpm records on my best friend’s porch. It felt safe and inviting and I fell into an easy conversation with Bryony. When she heard I happened to have some of my artwork in my car which I was transporting from a recent show, she invited me to set up a Porch Art Exhibition.
We were two kids, playing on Bryony’s porch.
Settling into a chair by an old screen door, I looked around and noticed all the mismatched windows and banisters and clapboards. “We started with a basic porch structure,” says Bryony. “Then local people began donating pieces to the project. I’m sitting on a Sue Clary sofa. And that door behind you was donated by Liz and Bob Skinner.” Now I understood why there was so much great energy on this porch. Each piece has its own story, and then people visit and create more stories.
So here are the musings and ramblings that became part of the conversation Bryony and I shared on her American porch that day:
Porch Pieces has finished touring New York, but will become part of an international exhibition on rural culture.