I went home, to the area west of Boston, prior to the spring quarter of my first year as a graduate student, with intention of rediscovering an untapped part of my visual experience. I was hoping to find new inspiration, something from which to extract new forms. It was a simple response to a basic frustration with the design process I had become accustomed to, and a growing unease with the nature of our techno-centric society. When I began making furniture, I immersed myself in its history, and it was out of this immersion that I drew inspiration. Making and the history of furniture were aptly married, and were well suited to a certain way of learning about both the history and the working of wood. I had begun to feel that after designing and building furniture for almost a decade in this way that it was no longer a completely satisfying approach.
I was compelled to search my own history in an effort to bring a more personal perspective to my work. With this goal in mind, I set out to explore place, and the significance of my aesthetic experience. A brief but influential trip home was necessary in that pursuit. Living in Rochester presented an opportunity to examine home from a fresh perspective, and this simple trip, a long weekend really, served to jump-start the search for a new approach.
I grew up in Hopkinton, Massachusetts, a town that had once been home to a whole host of mills and small factories, a town with a past not unlike many in New England. To begin to re-examine my visual history, I sought out the remnants of the history of the place I came from. I began to document them, capturing snap shots of familiar things and places. I collected them, not knowing what might come of it. The things that I found were simple yet significant: mill buildings, smokestacks, granite markers, hitching posts, cast iron ornamentation and implements, monuments, millstones, scattered machine parts, in addition to other industrial and cultural leavings. These markers of another time pepper the New England landscape, and while many of these leavings have been reduced to quaint decoration, they continue to quietly exist. They are at once emblematic of an industrial past, and reminders of the forward momentum of time and progress.
I propose with this thesis to build a body of work that draws upon home as its primary source. Home has played a major role in my visual experience. However, it has been only recently that I have begun to unearth the relevance in my work of the place where I grew up. Home is a place filled with relics and remnants emblematic of another society, its philosophies and its ethics. Their roles have changed, yet they continue to have a place in our world. For me, not only are these things markers of home and its broader meaning; they have become symbols of work and making.
By exploring the relevance of the architecture, artifacts and implements of our recent past I will seek out their new significance. I will examine the visual, the metaphorical, the literal and the lyrical, investing the results of this search in the creation of new work. My aim is not to recreate objects from our past, but to use them in an effort to discover something about the relationship between form and meaning. In addition to the aesthetic side of this investigation, it is my suspicion that it will also lead to a discovery of something deeply personal about home.
Library of Congress Subject Headings
Furniture design--Themes, motives; Furniture design--Technique; Home in art
Imaging Arts (MFA)
Department, Program, or Center
School for American Crafts (CIAS)
Tracey, Will, "Recollecting Home" (2013). Thesis. Rochester Institute of Technology. Accessed from
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