THIS IS HOME Gallery Tour

An audio tour for the gallery showing at Firecat Projects is now available. You can download the tour as podcast from iTunes or Stitcher. So, visit the gallery, download the podcast on your phone, and browse the paintings with audio from the interviews that inspired them.

Thanks for stopping by!

At Home with Roberta Feldman

Roberta has lived in Chicago for 35 years, she says that she and her husband wanted to live in a city that felt like a city. Roberta says that she wanted to live in a large, dense city -- like New York City, where she grew up. She has lived in Streeterville for 10 years, after having lived in Lincoln Park for about 20 years. Roberta lives on the 66th story of Lake Pointe Tower with her husband. Chicagoans will know Lake Pointe Tower as the building near to Navy Pier, on the east side of Lake Shore Drive. Roberta hesitated to say that she felt like her building feels like home.

Living on the 66th floor of a modern high rise building is truly unique. Roberta says that her condo doesn’t have a cozy corner that makes it feel home-y, the experience of being at home is dominated by the view. When I asked Roberta about the feelings that she associates with home, she said that she associate home with a sense of security and familiarity, but also with drama, in her current home, the view provides the drama. Those dramatic views change through the seasons.

It took me a long time to decide what to paint from Roberta’s home. Roberta’s opinion of the meaning of home is informed by her study, she describes home as “a center space” the place go away from and the place you go back to. She also described this particular home as a unique refuge. Being so far above the city makes everything really quiet and the chaos of the city below seems very far away. I was hesitant to paint the view from Roberta’s home because skylines are so commonly depicted in art. I was struck though by how dominant the view is, in Roberta’s experience of home. It brings both drama and a sense of refuge and calm to her. The night I visited Roberta’s home, in November of 2014, the view was a little misty, the sky reflecting orange tones and mysterious layers of clouds.

Special thanks to Stefano Vita for use of his music in the audio recording.

At Home with Linda Rosul and Todd Wiltse

Linda Rosul has lived in Chicago for 19 years and her husband Todd Wiltse for 25 years . They have lived in their Logan Square home for eleven years. Todd and Linda say that their house in west Logan Square felt like home immediately.

As we toured the home, Linda described their home as humble in its’ origin. The houses in that area and built at the turn of the 20th century were what Todd describes as original“tract” houses, homes without much detail for working class Chicagoans.  Todd and Linda have been gradually rehabbing their home, the bedroom upstairs, later the main living space on the first floor, in addition to the front porch and front and back yards. The house is a labor of love for Todd and Linda, and it still in progress. In fact, when I asked them about favorite spots in the house Linda said her favorite place was the window looking out to the garden, which is part of a future planned renovation.

Todd and Linda feel rooted in their home and Todd described the honey locust in the backyard is as the soul of the property. Linda has carefully created the backyard to be a dynamic place, with things blooming at nearly every time of year. Very few of the plants that are there now were there when Todd and Linda moved in, the tree though is a constant, it is what Linda describes as “old man-ish”. I decided to paint this tree in the backyard because it seemed to a physical manifestation of way in which Todd and Linda are rooted in this place, it’s been consistent and seems a meaningful part of the property for Todd and Linda.

Special thanks to Stefano Vita for use of his music in the audio recording.

At Home with Jane Sloss

I sometimes marvel at the serendipities that arise when making art. It was after I conceived of this project about home, that my partner and I decided to move in together. That decision took me away from Chicago, to the northern suburbs, to accommodate our commutes in opposite directions. This meant a move away from the home in which I had lived longer than anywhere else, having moved frequently through childhood and early adulthood. That is the home depicted in this painting. I was intrigued by the opportunity that this series offered to consider the idea of home as I went about the process of making and sharing a new home.

Specifically, I have chosen to paint the garden that I cultivated in the backyard of the three-flat in Andersonville, which I shared with roommates for six years For the first several years that I lived there, I did not do any work in the backyard, but I noticed a dramatic transformation in the degree to which I felt connected to the place once I planted things in the ground. I also built a large picnic table, we strung globe lights and the backyard became a special place to share meals with friends and host parties. I also enjoyed the solace and derived comfort from the quiet time I spent in that place, watering and tending the garden.

Special thanks to Stefano Vita for use of his music in the audio recording.

At Home with Katrina and Mike

Katrina Van Valkenburgh has lived in Chicago for 25 year and her husband Mike Newman for 26 years. They live in a house in Chicago’s West Town neighborhood. Mike, an architect, runs an office out of the first floor.  The couple say that they didn’t intend to stay in Chicago when they moved to the city from Boston, but somehow, they never left. Katrina and Mike have lived in their current home for 13 years.

They say they feel at home in their house. and that when they first found it, they knew it was just right for them.” The second story which is nearly completely open plan is where they spend most of their time. They say they are almost always in the same room together. Mike and Katrina’s house is completely covered in ivy the summer, which is magical in it’s own way. It reminds me of the ivy covered walls from The Secret Garden, which was one of my favorite books as a child. They say that the house is alive in the spring and summer and that it changes through the seasons. I though it was interesting that Mike described the house as alive and that you really feel the “green” living in their house. I really struck when Katrina mentioned that they used to cut the ivy back at the windows, but that they now like to let it grow across the windows and that it feels like living in a tree or a tree house. It made me want to paint one of the windows in their second floor living space to try to capture a bit of that treehouse feeling. Katrina says that she’s feel grounded at home and though home makes everything possible Mike says that his sense of home comes less from the place of home than it does from sharing his home.

Special thanks to Stefano Vita for use of his music in the audio recording.

At Home with Angie and Mel

I interviewed Angie and Mel in September 2015. Mel has lived in Chicago 15 years, and his wife Angie has lived in Chicago for a little over two years. They live together in the upper unit of a two flat, in Andersonville, that Mel bought, with the couple that lives downstairs, about 10 years ago.

Angie and Mel were very thoughtful about about the idea of home, they felt that it’s people and familiarity that make a place feel like home. And as Angie said, there is something indescribable and intangible, that just makes a place feel like home. I really enjoyed that Angie mentioned a smell in their apartment that she associates with the place. I think this is the first time that smells have come up in an interview, but it makes so much sense because smell can so readily conjure memories for me.

When Mel and Angie first started dated, they dated long distance, with Mel living in Chicago and Angie living in the Bay area, in California. Mel and Angie say that they spent a lot of time on the front porch during the first summer when Angie spent time in their current home. The painting depicts this front porch where Mel and Angie shared a first beer and watched thunderstorms, which are uncommon in the place where Angie grew up. I think I was really drawn to paint the front porch because of the specificity of the memories associated with that particular spot in the home, a first beer shared there, thunderstorms watched. Angie also enjoys spending time tending to the garden that they keep in the parkway at the front of their home. The garden lies just beyond the painting, in view of the front porch. Angie said that working in the garden is a good way to meet neighbors and other passersby.

Special thanks to Stefano Vita for use of his music in the audio recording.

At Home with Carole and Larry Krucoff

Carole and Larry Krucoff were married in 1963, and have lived in Chicago ever since. Larry went to school at the University of Chicago. They moved to South Shore from Hyde Park, because the houses were larger and nicer and less expensive than the houses in Hyde Park. The area of the neighborhood where they live in is called Jackson Park Highlands. They have lived in their current home for 42 years.

The neighborhood, including the racial make up of it’s residents, has changed through the years. Originally the neighborhood housed very affluent Chicagoans. Gradually the residents changed from protestant to Catholic and then from white to predominantly African American. Larry said that in recent years the neighborhood has experienced an increased in nuisance crimes, but that has come with some unexpected advantages. It has brought neighbors together, they talk more, they formed watch groups, they got to know each other and now they socialize.

The house has a wonderful garden, backyard, and screened-in porch, where the Krucoffs dine and where their cats would enjoy the outdoors. When Carole is feeling blue she spends time on the porch swing on the back porch. Larry seeks solace in the kitchen. I made a painting of the porch swing in the screened-in porch where Carole goes when she if feeling blue. Though I visited the home of on a cold March day, I could imagine the delight of sitting on a porch swing in the summer months, drinking a glass of wine, looking out at the garden, and swinging gently. Carole says her home is just the place she wants to be, a place to feel sheltered.

Special thanks to Stefano Vita for use of his music in the audio recording.

At Home with Sam Marts

I interviewed Architect Sam Marts in January of 2015. He has lived in Chicago since 1974 and in his Bucktown home with his partner Nicolos since 1986. Sam and his partner refer to their home as the Dot house, named for Sam’s Aunt who left him money, which he used for the down payment on the home.

The Dot house is truly unique: it feels wonderfully whimsical yet ordered. Sam and Nicolos are collectors of things, which are displayed intentionally in their parlour. The house is filled with special nooks and carefully designed spaces. So, after completing the interview, I was not certain what I wanted to paint, there seemed to be many possibilities. When I listened back to the recording though, I was struck by the fact that Sam and Nicolos have made the kitchen and the kitchen table, the heart of their home. They eat breakfast, lunch and dinner, together at the kitchen table, using the space as a social center, desk, and dining space. This is apparent from the curated collection of cards and prints, paperwork being tended to and dining implements, which were on the table when I visited. Sam and Nicolos’ home struck me as a place which reflects their interests, and is sized to allow them to live comfortably, but not to be too much. Thanks for stopping by!

Special thanks to Stefano Vita for use of his music in the audio recording.

At Home with Rudy Gomez

I interviewed Rudy Gomez in July of 2015. Rudy has been living in Chicago his whole life and in his West Rogers Park home for 20 years. He shares the home with his parents, he currently rents the basement apartment. Rudy says the one thing he would change about the neighborhood is a recent increase in gang activity, but what he loves is he great diversity in the ethnic backgrounds of the people who live on his street.

When I was driving down the street on the way to Rudy’s house, I must confess that when I spotted a vibrantly blue stucco home with a meticulously maintained front yard, I thought, “I hope that’s the one,” and it was indeed Rudy’s home. The blue is distinct and Rudy said that he is reminded of home when he sees that shade in the blue when he is away from home.

The backyard is a place where his family gathers to socialize and also a place that Rudy goes when he’s having a bad day. I made a painting of Rudy’s backyard because it feels like the heart of this home. On the Saturday morning that I visited members of his extended family had already begun to assemble on the back patio. The patch of grass and flower bed at the back of the yard are carefully tended to and it feels very much like a place that has hosted many celebrations. And, as Rudy described, it’s a place of respite on a bad day.

Special thanks to Stefano Vita for use of his music in the audio recording.

At Home with Le Beni Buconyori

I really enjoyed talking to Le Beni Buconyori, like many Chicagoans he is an immigrant to the U.S. He has lived in Chicago since 2005, and in Rogers Park for the last seven years. Le Beni is from Burundi and moved to Chicago after going to college in Michigan. He was drawn to Chicago because of the diversity. Le Beni settled in Rogers Park after careful consideration. LeBeni says he feels particularly at home in Rogers Park because of his friends, with whom he speaks primarily his native French tongue, and even the Indian food on Devon, which reminds him of the Indian food he ate growing up in Africa.

There are some particular places which feel special to Le Beni in his apartment. He has a special ritual around making and eating meals. While preparing dinner he turns on an internet stream of a radio program from Burundi and takes some time to be immersed in news from his homeland. The painting was inspired by the way in which LeBeni described the experience of sitting on his couch and looking out the window. He has an extraordinary view of Lake Michigan from that window in his living room, and says that the whole sensory experience of the view, the sounds of the lake and feel of the lake breezes make the couch a special place in his apartment. As an immigrant, Leboni has a unique take on what home means to him. He describes home as place that you create for yourself, you build home he says.

Special thanks to Stefano Vita for use of his music in the audio recording.

At Home with Michael & Deborah Barnum

I interviewed Michael and Deborah Barnum in November of 2014. Michael is lifelong Chicago resident and Deborah grew up in the suburbs of Chicago. They have lived in their home in Chicago’s Beverly neighborhood for 38 years. Michael had always wanted to living in Beverly. After looking at thirty houses, Deborah says that she knew immediately that their home was the one for them, when she saw the beautiful arched openings that lead into the front room and dining room.

The Barnums were emphatic that their is nothing they would change about their neighborhood. Their street in particular means a lot to them. The way in which Michael and Deborah described their street felt special, and made me want to depict a portion of that street in the painting. The painting includes the Barnum’s home, as well as the homes on either side of the them. Deborah says that in particular, she likes the street in the winter. Thanks for stopping by!

Special thanks to Stefano Vita for use of his music in the audio recording.

At Home with Hilary Gabel

I interview Hilary Gabel in August of 2014. It was a beautiful summer day and we sat in her backyard for the interview. Hilary lives in Chicago’s Edison Park neighborhood on an idyllic tree lined street.  She says that her home feels like fall, but also that she enjoys being in the yard in the warmer months. Hilary’s affinity for spending time outdoors is apparent in the tremendous care she and her husband have taken with their yard.

My conversation with Hilary and visiting her home, made me want to make a painting that depicted the view of Hilary’s home from the street. The way in which Hilary described the upcoming block party felt so evocative of an American picture of home, and the flowers which line the front walk to Hilary’s home seem to be ushering visitors in the front door, welcoming guests and greeting neighbors. Thanks for stopping by!

Special thanks to Stefano Vita for use of his music in the audio recording.

At Home with Charlie Branda

I interviewed Charlie Branda, a resident of Chicago's Old Town neighborhood, in November of 2014. I met her as a volunteer with Architecture for Humanity. Charlie is working to create a community art center in Chicago’s, Old Town neighborhood. She would like for there to be a space where everyone in the neighborhood is welcome and place where neighbors can meet and get to know each other. I was always very impressed by Charlie's dedication to improving her neighborhood and was very excited to talk to her about about her home. I learned during the interview that Charlie grew up in Anchorage, Alaska, and why she was drawn to Chicago, after going to college in the suburbs of Chicago in the early 1990s.

Charlie sees her home as a place where you can feel any feeling you experience, a safe place to feel happy and sometimes sad. She recognizes the complexities and difficulties that exist in many of Chicago's neighborhoods. In parallel to the complexity that Charlie notices and experiences in her community, she had many happy things to say about her home and sharing that home with her family. Charlie talked about a number of special places in her home; I was particularly moved by the way she talked about spending time in the warm seasons on the trampoline in their backyard. She said that when she is sitting on the trampoline, she feels “ like this is the little patch of earth where i belong,” what a wonderful way to describe the feeling of home. So, I made a painting of the view you have laying on the trampoline in Charlie’s backyard and the patch of sky framed in that spot. Thanks for stopping by!

Special thanks to Stefano Vita for use of his music in the audio recording.

At Home with Hilary Waldron

I was really pleased to have the opportunity to interview Hilary Waldron. She is a life long Chicago resident. Hilary has lived in Chicago’s Lincoln Square neighborhood since 1992 and has seen the neighborhood change a great deal in those years. Hilary lives in the home she grew up in with her mother, and says definitely feels like home. Since Hilary's mom passed away in 2006, Hilary has shared her home with a number of friends and other roommates.

In the process of doing interviews and thinking about the spaces to paint based on those interviews, it is sometimes immediately apparent what I want to paint. Sometimes, I feel uncertain, but when I listen back to interviews, it becomes immediately obvious. This was the case with Hilary. I was so moved by the way in which Hilary described her home as a container that holds our special memories. With that meaning in mind, it seemed extra special to make a painting of the spice rack, which was a letter press box that belonged to Hilary’s mother. It a physical container for things: spices, but also special do-dads and collectibles and quite a nice metaphor for home as a place to contain our things, but also our memories. Thanks for stopping by!

Special thanks to Stefano Vita for use of his music in the audio recording.

At Home with Mike & Celeste Burke

Long time Jefferson Park residents, Mike and Celeste Burke, have been living in Chicago for over 60 years. I really enjoyed visiting Mike and Celeste, I was particularly struck by the creativity they employ in the ways they spend time with their family and the special places they have created in their classic Chicago bungalow.

When I asked Celeste and Mike whether there is a particular place in their home where they go when they are feeling blue, I was immediately moved by Celeste’s answer. She said that she would go into the pantry and close the door. Sometimes she would pull the phone into the pantry and sometimes she would look at recipes that she wanted to make. I could relate to the appeal of hulling up in a pantry. As a frequent cook myself, I can completely appreciate the joy that comes from being surrounded by goods for preparing and serving food, I can imagine the coziness of tucking away into this tiny nook, and the shear pleasure of flipping through recipes, thinking about cooking them and to whom I would serve them. I knew nearly immediately that this is the space in their home I wanted to paint. Thanks for stopping by!

Special thanks to Stefano Vita for use of his music in the audio recording.

At Home with Diane Christiansen

I interviewed Diane Christiansen in August of 2014. She has lived in Chicago's Wicker Park neighborhood for approximately 29 years. Diane has an incredibly powerful story of the community that has been formed on her block, which she describes as small town-like. The painting I made depicts the entry to her studio from the backyard. Our interview took place in her studio because she said it is the place where she spends the most time and feels most at home. She describes the backyard and studio as located on nearly sacred ground, from which springs forth giant rhubarb plants and great love. Thanks for stopping by!

Special thanks to Stefano Vita for use of his music in the audio recording.

At Home with Betsy Rubin

I interviewed Betsy in July of 2014. She is a longtime resident of Hyde Park neighborhood. I choose to make a painting of this sunny corner of Betsy’s front room because it’s the place she most likes to spend time with people who visit her home. It’s also the place in her home where she keeps many special things, which relate to memories of family and important people in her life. Betsy even described many of the special things sitting on and hanging above the dresser represented in the painting. The audio file included with this post features portions of the interview with Betsy. Thanks for stopping by!

Special thanks to Stefano Vita for use of his music in the audio recording.