And now P is telling her that Avena Sativa will definitely help her to get to sleep – says that she’s been “a little naughty lately”, drinking too much wine in the evenings, and also struggling to sleep. But Sarah knows that Avena Sativa is the Latin for plain old oats, staple food of horses the world over. And of course a damn good breakfast for humans too. Yet she doesn’t believe that a few drops of oats essence will cure her insomnia; even inside her dream, she feels skeptical.
As Sarah turns away from P, she notices her sisters digging borders around two municipal sidewalk trees – jacarandas. Purple blooms dot prettily around them. Fleshy bulbs are pushed into wet, dark soil. She ignores them, and they ignore her.
Sarah walks fast, towards the sound of the thundering sea somewhere in the distance, and soon finds the familiar boardwalk of her dreams: a narrow coastal walk cut into the fynbos shrubbery agains the mountain behind her house; a fictional link between her village, and the next, and the next – all the way to the very end of the south-peninsular teat of Africa. In her dreams, Sarah knows this walk well, and is surprised to find something new – an ancient white-washed church built into a massive rockface she had never noticed before.
She climbs the narrow staircase to get to the entrance, and meets a man holding a clipboard. He mentions that she is welcome to help herself to the “eats and tea” his wife had prepared. Excited, Sarah tries to phone her husband but only gets a voice message: a crass rendering of one of his latest commercials for Ariel washing powder. The man with the clipboard tells her that he hosts an historical meeting once a month, and was hoping that she would join. The numbers have been dwindling steadily, he says.
Sarah finds herself inside the mysterious, rotund church building. Three trestle tables form a triangle in the centre, and her latest work are spread out on top: several circular paintings, densely scribbled with imagery. “I’m trying to paint every single thing in the world,” she tells the historian, not quite believing it herself.
Leaving the building, she continues on the path, hoping to find the large abandoned house she often visits when walking here. It seems to have vanished: the beautiful red brick work, the delicate carvings above the front door, the smooth stone step that lifted one to the front door, the swirled green glass of the small windows in the side walls of the house, the collapsing vine slung over a rotting trellis – all gone. The fragrant wisteria, the cloying perfume of star jasmine – all gone.
Bewildered, Sarah swirls around in a full circle. Some form of light is emanating from where the house once stood, and she walks towards it. A long row of windows face her – not quite windows, more like the thick glass of an aquarium. They turn out to encase illuminated scenes from different kitchens; of servants entombed in resinous, amber light. Their movements are slow and measured; long-suffering, yet beautifully nostalgic. Their eyes gaze past Sarah’s, into a past or a future they long for.
I wish the title “Domestic Departures” has not been used before for an art show, because it so succinctly describes what I’m feeling about my work at the moment. I have title envy! Never mind.
Jackie Bunge & Joanna Grasso presented Domestic Departures at the Cal State Fullerton Visual Arts Center. Participating artists: Candice Smith Corby, Amy Cutler, Kiki Smith, Rosenclaire, Ruby Osorio, Kara Walker, Christina Smith, Carrie Yury and special guest William Kentridge.
One needs to depart to arrive somewhere else, and the familiar needs to disappear. Boundaries are getting blurred, and I no longer know what it is I’m trying to say. Strangely, it doesn’t seem to matter.
Where once this inspired me…
…I now seem to seek this.
Stem below the surface
My ‘eye’ is disintegrating.
It feels like a good thing.
For now, knitting holds me together, knotting a visible link to what-will-emerge.
Knitting histories…my domestic departure