If I could have painted my office, inch by inch, I would have, but not in one color; rather, I would have followed Vanessa Bell's Charleston lead, and followed up by conjuring someone closer to my Island roots--Maud Lewis, subject of the recent film Maudie, starring Sally Hawkins and Ethan Hawke, and filmed in Newfoundland.
Bell, a Bloomsbury insider, and Lewis, a Digby, Nova Scotia outsider, have both created painted homes--one the sophisticated, knowingly primitive Charleston; the other the naive, exuberant saltwater box in the Maritime provinces. The lives of these artists were quite different, though both suffered greatly, and I wonder whether their painted exteriors were a way to surround themselves with beauty. I also firmly believe that the process is more rewarding than seeing a completed object, be it a quilt or a painting, and Maud, who did not always have something to paint on, could turn to her walls, or stairs, or shingles to create new canvases. Her house is preserved in the Nova Scotia Art Museum, above and below.
My own house is old--it was built in 1876--and has a fireplace that was added in the 1920s. I would love to paint or tile it, and maybe somewhere in between Bell and Lewis I can find my own vision. I'd call it firesider art.
And by the way, as I was looking up to see whether anyone had written about these two "house painters" (noone has, as far as I could see), I discovered that Bell designed a fabric called "Maud." It's fitting: