I continue to use my paintings as a way to honor my own regional history which I will always tie to my upbringing in north Missouri. I now realize that while creating these paintings initially was a way for me to process the homesickness I felt after leaving my childhood hometown to pursue an MFA degree in the urban setting of Dallas/Fort Worth, I now create them as a sort of souvenir of the places I left and the structures and things I knew most intimately. Even though my job as an art professor eventually brought me back to my home region, I’ve had to come to grips with the realization that “home” is now someplace I don’t fully recognize.
Moving to Texas to pursue my education created geographical distance between the place where I was located and my home. That, plus the distance created by time, has made me aware of my new role as a visitor. My pride and passion for the rural Midwest remains as strong as it ever was, but now that comes through in my paintings like a witness’ perspective. Each time I return home to visit family, I notice more and more store fronts are empty along our Main Street or see that important landmarks have fallen into disrepair or are completely gone. The rate of entropy among places that once seemed so grand and central to my town is startling.
I’m aware of how, over time, ways of life shape and define people and the places in which they live. Making these paintings helps me consider whether disappearance can be meaningful and if so, in what way it’s meaningful for my home community and for myself. I’m considering where I’ll find “home” again and where I can “go back” to.
All places acquire layers of history. This specific place is grounding to me, personally, and I realize how significantly it shaped my identity. I’m hopeful that the shift I’m observing in my hometown is a cycle that has occurred before in one way or another. Maybe it looks different to a current resident than to a visitor.