Artist Michael Ward shares his love of architecture in this collection of nostalgic house portraits. Visit his website to see more of his art.
I have had a fascination with architecture from an early age. As a child, I announced I wanted to be an architect, which is why my parents agreed to my request for a dollhouse. I didn’t care about the dolls, but I definitely wanted the house.
In high school, I studied architecture, finding myself especially interested in doing renderings and elevations. Later, in college and beyond, I did pen and ink drawings of houses. I did this first as a favor for a cousin, and eventually for a business selling images of Victorian houses on calendars and greeting cards.
When I began painting with acrylics in the mid-1990s, I found myself painting the houses in my neighborhood. This eventually evolved into my Home is Where the House Is series.
The first of these was a house in Bozeman, Montana, near where I spent my childhood. It was a simple mid-20th century house clad in asbestos shingles. Other Bozeman houses joined the series, along with houses from Michigan, California and even Mexico—anywhere I found a suitable subject in my travels. Some were just down the block, waiting for me to find them.
The houses are all painted in a uniform size, 14” x 18.” The views are all front-facing as the house presents itself to the street, like an architectural illustration.
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Some of the houses are neat as a pin, while others are quite shabby. I’ve experienced both. Most are modest. They’re where the middle class lives, or at least where they lived in the twentieth century.
They have in common the distinction of being the structure where ordinary people, living ordinary lives, can be sheltered and nurtured. There’s a grace in the ordinary which is characterized by these houses.
When I display these houses at shows, I am surprised by the emotional response they evoke in viewers. To people of my generation they are reminders of the places we grew up in.
To younger generations, they are the places their parents or grandparents lived in which were visited on holidays and summer vacations. Viewers often tell me they know exactly where a certain house is. They’re wrong, of course, but in a way they’re right as well.
I paint other stuff as well—landscapes, cityscapes, signs, cars and people. But houses will always have a special place in my oeuvre.
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