Paula Rebsom - If We Lived Here, I’d be Home by Now (2009-10)

Artist’s statement:

"When my mother was 3 months pregnant with me, a harsh winter forced my parents off the farm that has been in our family for over 50 years.

After my parents’ left the farm they moved to nearby Dickinson, the land was rented to neighbors and the home was rented out to a couple that left the home in such disarray it was no longer safe for human occupancy. That is when the barn swallows, rabbits, raccoons and mice began to settle into their new home. I was able to enter the home a few times as a child to view the new homes these animals had tucked into the corners and recesses of the rooms. Eventually the floor by the front door collapsed barring any further human access to the remainder of the home.

After my grandmother gave my parents power of attorney over the property, they burned down the farmhouse, barns and chicken coup for liability concerns. What did not burn was buried and all that remains as evidence of the homestead are two small granaries.

I returned to North Dakota and built a 16-foot tall by 40-foot wide billboard like replica of the home with the assistance of my father just over the hill from where the original homestead was. I used the last image taken of the home before it was burned as my model for the front of the structure and attached 20 birdhouses that spell out the words ‘If we lived here, I’d be home by now.’ to the back of it.

In its simplest form If We Lived Here was built in an attempt to provide shelter for the birds that were displaced when their home was destroyed. In its most complex form it is a quiet and haunting, ghostlike reminder of what was, what is no longer, and what may never be.”

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Septim themes