An antique wooden cart piled high with seemingly ordinary objects dares visitors to engage, to take a close examination, crouching on their knees in an effort to investigate the pots and pans, standing on their toes to scrutinize the saws and hammers. 

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In Housebound, a new exhibition at Heiner Contemporary, each artwork invites visitors to participate in an intimate viewing of domestic space.

The experience begins upon approaching the Book Hill neighborhood gallery, where one is confronted by an abstracted interior standing in the window. A curious installation featuring hanging stairwell banisters and a traditional wooden chair holding an aged sewing machine immediately draws the onlooker’s attention with its baby pink, sea foam green and white color scheme reminiscent of the 1950’s home.

 “It’s all about what you leave behind once you’ve made the hard choices and you’re running out the door,” said artist Rachel Farbiarz of her original work I Wish I Could, “There are certain details you don’t notice in your home, like the shingles on your roof, but at any point in life you would recognize them.”

 “Your home is where you keep your memories and as you grow so does your home. It becomes a reflection of the self and the rooms become an extension of one’s personality,” said Assistant Director Elizabeth Parkman, who in collaboration with gallery owner Margaret Heiner, first envisioned an exhibition exploring the varying definitions of ‘home’ in 2010, a year before opening Heiner.

Shortly after realizing their vision, the curatorial duo set out collecting such artworks as Ann Toebbe’s flat, birds-eye view drawings of friends’ apartments rendered entirely from memory, and Allison Reimus’ delightfully playful and optically intriguing Vessel paintings that abstract architectural and design elements to create a three-dimensional space on a flat surface, executed with such genuine tactility that one must restrain himself from running his fingers along what appears to be lace or gauze.

 Parkman is interested in the psychology of the home, and the exhibition succeeds at questioning the affect a home has on a person and the effect an individual can have on a domestic space.

 ”I had to imagine what it would be like to take your domestic space with you. What happens when it becomes the exterior and you have to take your home on the go?” said Farbiarz of her work Take me with you that is evocative of the refugee experience and echoes the carts characteristically used by the homeless to carry possessions.

Though Farbiarz’s works were constructed mostly from items purchased in thrift stores, the carefully selected fond objects are similar to the Housebound works on paper,in their evocation of highly personalized, yet universal motifs.

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Pieces from a crystal chandelier are suggestive of Farbiarz’s grandmother’s prized possessions, and the sewing machine is an homage to a photograph of a woman in the Democratic Republic of Congo who when forced to leave her home, took the one object that cultivated her livelihood. The sewing machine as not only her source of income, but also her genesis of pride, inspired the saws and hammers as an expression of the artist’s father who after escaping the horrors of WWII took the tools necessary to find work.

 Housebound is on display until January 5, 2013. More information can be found on the Heiner Contemporary here.

Bringing the Art in DC to You, 

Roxanne Goldberg