Emily Jane

Things that reflect the human experience always intrigue, inspire and fascinate. For me, the houses of Detroit and Hamtramck are my favorite reflections of life in the city through the decades. In my paintings, I am concerned with houses and homes as a metaphor for human existence, and when I paint a house or a building I am painting part of a person’s life and experiences. The house as a symbol of the human psyche is a notion first introduced by Carl Jung in his 1961 treatise on the interpretation of dream imagery; ‘Memories, Dreams and Reflections.’ For me, a house (like the mind) contains all the tools for living. Also like our minds, our houses are assembled by us but they also dictate how we will live in the future. So we shape our homes, and our homes shape us. We live within our mental constructs in the same way we physically inhabit in the homes we build. When I look at a house or building, I see the lives of the people who have lived there: The woman digging in her victory garden, the man who made the decision to put up faux-brick siding, and where that is peeling I see the faint outline of the builder who proudly built the home as Detroit was just being born. Most of my paintings are of old houses: Where people were born and died, and I feel these ghosts in every old house.
In addition, I like to see imperfect houses: I like knowing that someone did their own repair imperfectly rather than paid someone else to do it perfectly. I like the flaws, the mistakes, the multi-colored roofing jobs and the person who decided to use whatever they had on hand to repair a broken porch or ripped gutter. These mistakes are like battle scars of a long life where someone struggled against chaos. The visible repair reminds us that we can overcome despite any odds. As spectators, we can learn nothing from a repair that leaves no obvious record. The dignity of the human struggle is writ large in the homes of Detroit, in the beauty of their imperfections. For me, true aesthetic value lies in the visibility of the human hand, in craft, and in the human touch.
Just as a row of houses represents many people living side-by-side, the neighborhood is both the backdrop and the impetus for various human experiences. Society and our shared cultural consciousness shape our beliefs and provide us with a framework for the world; similarly, our neighborhoods and shared community spaces provide a landscape for how we grow and develop. I observe, draw, paint, sculpt, sew, love, watch and record the houses around me because I cannot resist doing so. They speak to me about resilience, the unbroken chain of human life, and how even bad decisions (like bad paint jobs) show that someone was here and that they tried.

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