Dot Vile is a sculpture/installation artist from Philadelphia who recently spent a few weeks here with us in Southborough and was kind enough to share some photos of her work as well as a short reflection on her time at L’Abri.
I read Edith Schaeffer’s book Hidden Art on whim in art school. I knew the book was about homemaking but didn’t foresee it to have any impact on my work. At the time, I had already been thinking about the relation between a human body and a house. I was looking for physical similarities in their inwardness, outwardness, strengths and weaknesses. My suspicions were affirmed when I read the last chapter titled Environment. Edith says, “We are an environment, each one of us … People who come across us or walk into our presence become involved.” That stopped me in my tracks and pin-pointed what I began to believe about homemaking. It goes beyond physical walls. A relationship can become a home. I had no idea what L’Abri was while I read the book and was pretty stunned when I found out the word meant shelter.
In much of my work, I play with both construction site and homemaking material – like cement, curtains and steel nails. I set up interactions between the material to show their strengths and weaknesses. Human interactions are so alike in that way too. Direct interactions, especially through tension, can quickly show how strong or weak a relationship is. Many of the pieces I make become physical metaphors for this idea.
While I was at L’Abri for the beginning of the summer term, I learned “hospitality” means loving the stranger. Upon hearing that, the environment I give off suddenly became more of a responsibility and something to hone. The more I believe that I am an environment, a temple and a dwelling place, the more empathetic I feel towards both people and run-down houses. I observe and enter construction and demolition sites wherever I can. If we really are “glorious ruins” (as Francis Schaeffer says) than that empathy does not seem strange but somehow inborn.