• La Maison
  • La Maison
  • La Maison
  • La Maison
  • La Maison
  • La Maison
  • La Maison
  • La Maison
  • La Maison
  • La Maison
  • La Maison

Artist's Statement

La Maison was an "inside/outside house," an incomplete shelter to be experienced and imaginatively completed by visitors. The installation comprised a one-room house with a floor, two walls, and a hallway containing an open skylight. The inside walls were dry-walled and painted white, and the exterior surfaces were wood, painted brown.

Inside, a chair in the center of the room was painted and repainted in a variety of bright colors, all partially worn away to reveal multiple undercoats, suggesting a long history of use.

Sitting in the chair, the viewer was partially sheltered from behind and from the sides, although the missing two walls and ceiling exposed her to the elements. A large, dead tree trunk leaning against the long wall behind the chair connected the space to its site on the lawn among living trees. Exposed and vulnerable, the sitter occupied center stage.

To the left of the seated participant was a hallway with an open skylight in the ceiling. Moving through the hall offered a framed experience of the sky and all the attendant sensations of moving though an enclosed space and gazing upward and out.

Continuing down the stairs from the hall onto the lawn, visitors could walk around and behind La Maison. Climbing another set of stairs, visitors could peer out of a 15" x 15" diamond-shaped opening to watch the east wall of the Henry Art Gallery and the peaked skylights whose shape the opening mimicked. The view into the sculpture and the chair was blocked, sheltering anyone in the chair.

I created La Maison for open-ended exploration. Visitors could enter and interact with it physically, imaginatively, kinesthetically, and visually to create a personal narrative. Its location on the lawn, separated from the bulk of the exhibition inside the gallery, was a significant aspect of the conceptual and creative process behind the piece.

— Ingrid Lahti, 1990


Conceptual notes: sculptures as proto-mental constructs

• Undermining the primacy/hegemony of vision in art. Creating work that relies on all of the senses: touch, smell, hearing, peripheral vision, kinesthesia, all of the information from the embodied senses. These concepts have also been the subject of epistemological critiques by critics of ocular centrism such as Althusser, Barthes, Bataille, Bergson, Derrida, Debord, Foucault, Heidigger, Irigaray, Lacan, Levinas, Lyotard, Merleau-Ponty, and Sartre. There is a long tradition of examining the way in which elevating vision over the other senses leads modern individuals to interpret the world and construct a more meager, impoverished reality than those in cultures with a greater reliance on touch, hearing, and the other senses in constructing meaning and interpreting their world.
• Roland Barthes’ notion of the writer (artist) as ecrivant rather than ecrivain. Rather than string sets of words from which the reader might reconstruct/recreate meaning, I used the familiar idea of a house with its architectural components — walls, passageways, windows, skylights, stairs, etc — and furniture (the chair) as well as nature (a dead tree, the weather) since I sited it out of doors. Everyone has associations with houses, chairs, stairs, etc. These individual and unique associations allow each visitor to generate a narrative (meaning) which is also unique and specific to her, although generated through interactions with the sculpture which I created from a limited palette of objects and sensations based on my intentions.
• Semiotics/the genesis of language/the origins of words lies in the need to separate, to express differences. For example, to distinguish between a tree and a bush we need two distinct words.