If you couldn’t engage with the real world, what would life look like? The pandemic made that question loom larger than we could ever dream. For those of us confined to our homes, adjusting them became our sole focus. Really, there was little else to do aside from manipulate our immediate environments, with or without contractors, designers, or architects. As it turned out, resources were limited. So was talent.
Not so for these artists and designers, who were prompted by New York design studio Fort Makers to think beyond their own four walls for a new exhibit, Dreamhouses. But these aren’t anything like Barbie’s. With pandemic-esque parameters, i.e., only using the tools and materials they had at hand, the group implemented everything from rendering software to construction paper to design fantasy homes, however defined.
Accompanying these fevered, fantastical vignettes are texts from writers and poets that add another dimension; some are short fictions woven with social commentary, while others are essayistic reflections. From an open-air residence fit for the sunny climes of Los Angeles, to a fire engine–red walk-up with painted-on windows, here’s what happens when artists and designers fall into a dream state.
Artist: Sam Harvey
Words: Tash Nikol
A Waiting Room for Spirits
“the wise ones speak of the spirit house / here and there / our ancestors speak of a place there / a holding room for spirits / outside of skin / not far from clouds”
Artist: Noah Spencer
Words: Philippa Snow
“Ithaca, whose name was actually Jane, had dropped out of her Creative Writing MFA to start a new life in the desert, where she’d planned to write a novel, drop some acid, and behave exactly like the kind of white girl who called things her “spirit animal.” Ithaca-whose-name-was-actually-Jane was blonde and pretty, and her family had made a lot of money in interior design (or was it hotels?), so that whenever she got stoned or got drunk and began ranting about how money was meaningless, what sounded like an affirmation of her anti-capitalist stance was really a reiteration of the fact that, for her, money was no object.”
“‘I get kinda hectic inside,’ croons Mariah Carey on her 1995 hit single ‘Fantasy,’ illuminating over a candy-sweet dance beat her reoccurring chaotic, erotic daydream. Seven years later on MTV’s Cribs, Mimi showed just how hectic she likes to get inside her Tribeca penthouse, pairing strappy heels with a strapless ensemble to work out on her Versaclimber total body cardio machine. ‘So I can stand here, look at New York, things of that nature,’ she tells the camera, pumping up and down in place, looking beyond statuesque while she takes in the city skyline, her honey-colored blowout falling across her bare shoulders.”
Artist: Laurie Simmons
Words: Natasha Stagg
Nowhere to Sit
“The couch was so unlike the image when it arrived. All of the roommates looked at it, delivered and out of the box, the first new piece of furniture they had bought as a group. It was supposed to be what brought the room together, a luxurious blue velvet thing. They should have known, they all thought, that cheap velvet would look it, giving away more than what their second-hand or inherited furniture did.”
Sense Index Zero
“Is experience secondary?
It could be said what is felt is not what is, but how else am I to cleave a gap between what I know and what I do? I don’t mean ‘perceiving.’ I am trying to express that the sky appears blue because the atmosphere can’t scatter the long – wavelength reds or yellows the sun emits; the sky shows us what is beyond, what is underneath. Underneath the moon, away from New York lights, the night sky hazes blue since the lunar glow is solar too, its incandescence mere reflection, that excess: what is already gone.”
Imagining Life Inside Chiaozza’s Dreamhouse, Which I’m Sure Exists in L.A.
“Imagine the Chiaozza dream house is my dream house. Where do we live? Based on the photographs, we’re deeply secluded from the neighbors, without any surrounding landscape, hills or sky. I’m convinced, then, that this house exists somewhere deep in The Imagination, a neighborhood tucked into an unassuming corner of L.A. Just look around this town: Every single house is different from the one next to it. An imitation Italian villa next to an imitation midcentury glass box next to an imitation Tudor, all lined up on Beachwood Canyon Drive. Every single house is the figment of a different dreamer’s imagination—and every single one of them probably worked in the movie industry.”