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  • Writer's pictureBlair Butterfield

Art Ideas Unrealized Part I.

An inventory of notes and sketchbooks

I have been reflecting on my art practice a lot. For years, I have had visions of past interiors and imagined interiors. Perhaps they are from my subconscious. Over the last two years, I have been going to EMDR therapy and reprocessing trauma and challenges within myself from past events. I started painting and drawing rooms again. I now call the newer paintings Interiors of Trauma because I realized that a lot of the textures and patterns I keep seeing are from places of my childhood.

In the past, I painted and drew interiors to make commentary on class, culture, and how aesthetics created a power, yet underneath it all was human vulnerability. Revealing cracks, fractures, and the oozing blood of others in a system that is crumbling and made on the lives and blood of the marginalized, minorities, and people kept in cultural and monetary poverty. The paintings revealed this as blood emerging from wallpaper drips of blood or reality melting entirely. Sometimes the interiors were of homes I grew up in, sparkling with pink asbestos insulation, rusty orange shag carpeting, and faux plastic wood paneling. Toxic trailer decor of the poor South juxtaposed with the landscape of the backwoods, the hope given by the mysterious and vast darkness of the sky at night.

Here are some images of rooms of the past starting around 2004:

Paintings of Rooms

Some of these drawings and paintings came to life in the form of what I called Installation Paintings (they were on canvas):

Installation Paintings

Then in 2008 a fully immersable installation came to life for Art Basel Week in Miami:

Punk-Rock Bourgeoisie, Installation of 5 rooms, 2008

After that, I had a few commissions for rooms. One at the Chelsea Gallery, which was a lot of work without much reward. Then things got quiet. Luciano, my son was born and my priorities shifted to being a full time mom.

I came across a sketchbook with many rooms that I wanted to make but have never had a chance to (yet). So here they are. I imagine them together as a maze to navigate through. So you would enter one experience and enter into the next. Similar to the 2008 installation.

  • Sleeping While Awake Room: This is a dark room with floor-to-ceiling TVs, monitors, and screens of all sizes, makes, and models. The screens constantly play commercials, ads, news, high fashion, war coverage, and food ads. The only light in the room is the glow of the screens, and yes, you can hear them all at once. It is the overwhelm of the modern day—the consistent, non-stop drive of capitalism to sell to us all and demand we pay attention.

  • Price to Pay: A store where you consume identity. Forget buying objects, you just pick up the price tag and you get your status. The room has price tags from floor to ceiling. it is a small room, think Apple store, minimal with tags. Want to be a stock broker, just pat the price on the tag. Don’t have that much, flip the tag over and you can watch an ad, measured in years, to earn credit to gain your identity.

  • Keep Your Hand Clean: The Butcher: The next room is white, floor to ceiling in glossy subway tiles; it is an abattoir. A drain is in the middle of the floor, and hooks hang from the ceiling, with remnants of flesh still dried and attached. The drain has slight stains of blood puddled around it. The room is silent, and the lighting is bright.

  • Landscape: A dark round room with an astroturf floor. In the middle is an illuminated life-size tree made entirely of scrap wood, roughly patched together. In front of it, a small water feature reflects it. However, the water is black oil.

  • Pray: A room with all the idols of the world, we see crosses, devotional figures, sculptures, rosaries, prayer mats, skulls, candles, and incense burns, it is floor to ceiling with the objects of religions and spirituality. An audio rotates prayer, chants, and hymns to vocalizations of ancients.

  • The Library: We enter into a room with real wood floors, there are books floor to ceiling. There are vials of waters, soils, seeds, from around the world, with translated messages from each.

  • Room of Celestial Knowledge: A round room, like an observatory, with walls and ceilings that project images of real-time space. The ceiling also hangs with observation instruments, globes, maps, crystals, the sparkle of metallic instruments.

  • Self-Reflection: In a room of mirrors, walls, floors, and ceiling, one must look at oneself and find the door to the next room hidden within the escape of mirrors.

  • Mystery Room: The floor is black and white checkered, carnival lights line the room, and the walls hide the doors. A man in a formal suit stands in the room with a serving tray; he can only say “hello”. The room is made of wood paneling; there are a few mirrors framed in gold with dressing room lights all around them. (This one feels unfinished in concept, but I think you have to know yourself to stop playing the game and get out of the room.)

  • Be Safe: In a white padded room, floor-to-ceiling, there are three observation windows. When you look into the windows, you see a museum-style Marquette of stylized animals in a fake landscape. The other is a stylized family sitting at a dinner table together. The third window is in the door to the next room. You look into a liminal space of office cubicles.

  • Work: You enter a quiet liminal space of office cubicles outfitted with office equipment, fluorescent overhead lighting that flickers, you have to navigate around the ghostly desks to get to the next room.

  • Living Room: This is a classic living room set-up: TV, couch, and chairs, like one of my poor trailer interior paintings. Faux wood walls, the carpeted recliner chair.

  • Exit: The exit would lead you to a breath of fresh air. It would have to be site-specific: a wild landscape, a garden, or a trail walk to the best overlook. But it should lead you to the sublimity of nature. To feel your body on the planet, and it's beautiful, and the rest are just constructed realities that you can choose not to participate in.

I have some sketches of these rooms. But I have not yet come across that sketchbook. I’m happy to have these listed out here and no longer floating around on loose sheets of sketch paper. I also like the idea of adding a live film component to this. Where there are actors performing within each room and being live-streamed on one of the TVs in the two rooms with TVs.

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