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Dani Dodge: Make Yourself at Home

Photo by Kristine Shomaker

When people (artists, poets, songwriters, superheroes, prisoners, soldiers, sailors, lovers) think about home, most assume those are happy memories full of nostalgia, yearning, longing, safety, innocence, the smell of cookies, someone’s waiting arms, one’s own bed. But in truth it is often the opposite. Not everyone has a home, physical or permanent. Some never had one, some had a good one or a bad one and left or lost it. Home is sometimes a person or a country or a feeling or an idea and not a house at all. Some people carry theirs with them everywhere. Home is full of loved ones, or full of people who think you’re weird. Home is the only place you can finally be alone. How old were you when you left yours? Did you want to go or did someone make you? Have you been back lately, or at all? Why not? Two cats in the yard. Life used to be so hard. Fly away home. Home is where the heart is. East or west home is best. There’s no place like home. Take me home to the place I belong. You can’t go home again. She’s leaving home. Bye-bye.

Photo by Kristine Shomaker

Whatever a person’s unique experience of home has been, there’s no escaping the formative power that experience exerts on character and identity. For Dani Dodge, home was always one thing, and now it’s becoming quite another. That happens a lot, too. “When we are young,” she writes, “we want nothing more than to get away from home. As we age, some of us want nothing more than to be home.” Personal Territories at MOAH:CEDAR explores this complex and ever-changing dynamic in a bedroom-sized installation that incorporates video and sculpture sewn by Dodge in vinyl, organza, and mattress skin. A two-channel “home movie” is projected onto and through the suspended, diaphanous bed at its center. The multiple light sources impart a quality of lightness, floating, and flickering, which is at once both familiar and elusive, like dreams are, and like memories too. Indeed the idea that it might be possible to give physical expression and literal form to the vagaries of the subconscious and otherwise hidden animates all of Dodge’s work. And hers is a plausible proposition — that this is what memory looks like: diaphanous, awkward, rough, magical, dark and bright, wafting in waves and layers, with sudden shocks and blurred edges. Saliently, there is a thinly billowing darkness rising up like smoke from the corner behind the bed, acknowledging that not all dreams are sweet.

Photo by Dani Dodge

Visitors are invited to add to the material soul of the work, as they not only contemplate their own memories of home but contribute them by writing them down and stashing them in one of the many white shoe-boxes under the bed, as a further way of physically representing/embodying/enacting how memory works. The symbolism of the bed, like the easy chair in other pieces, is as a place of domestic repose and contemplation, and both recur as motifs in her work. Her strategy regularly involves using her own story as a launchpad and quickly encouraging the active participation of others — frequently by the solicited addition of personal texts from the audience, as with these memory boxes, and also in the weekly series of related public performance events in conjunction with the exhibition, planned at a few special off-campus locations in Lancaster. The performance artifacts are to be brought back to the museum — building an expanding collective memory of this time and place with the help of the people who call it home.

Photo by Kristine Shomaker

Photo by Baha Danesh

Photo by Dani Dodge

Saturday, July 1, 11 a.m. – 2 p.m.: Joe Davies Heritage Airpark

Horizons Beyond the Homefront: Participants fold paper planes, write where they want to go on them, and toss them into the “horizon.”

Saturday, July 8, 11 a.m. – 2 p.m.: Prime Desert Woodlands

The Earth Is My Home: Participants write and draw on an image of the Earth their thoughts of what the planet means to them.

Saturday, July 15, 11 a.m. – 2 p.m.: Los Angeles County Library – Lancaster

The Setting for my Story Is Home: We all have a story to tell. Participants tell the artist a short story about their home, wherever or whatever it is. The artist creates a title for the story and types it on a vintage library reference card that the participant then files into a library card file.

Saturday, July 22, 11 a.m. – 2 p.m.: Western Hotel Museum

Home as Heritage: Visitors to the museum think about their own heritage. They share the name of a relative who was a foundation of their family and a short story about that person. The artist types the story in no more than three sentences on parchment paper that becomes a “book.”

Location: MOAH:CEDAR, 44857 Cedar Ave., Lancaster, CA

Exhibition runs through August 5, 2017

Hours: Thursday - Sunday; 2 - 8 p.m.

Photo by Dani Dodge

Photo by Dani Dodge

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