There’s no place like home Niomi Fawn’s new installation
Dystopian films like Logan’s Run (1976) and the more recent I Am Legend (2007) offer a glimpse of a world in which nature has taken over. Sinuous vines and carpets of moss envelop crumbling buildings and homes. Wild animals roam freely through abandoned urban streets as edenic landscapes reclaim the pavement. But in artist Niomi Fawn’s a site-specific installation at No Land, the natural world and an interior domestic environment appear to balance each another. Nature doesn’t seem to intrude on the domestic setting so much as it appears to merge with it, as though the two diametrically opposed settings were integrated into one. Immersed in a viewer also has the impression of having entered a liminal space along the threshold between dream and reality. “There’s no paradise ‘out there,’ ” said Fawn, who sees the installation as an extension of selfhood. “I am the paradise by choosing what I think about and what I surround myself with. I’m tired of being told that paradise or happiness lies outside of my personhood.”
Fawn, who identifies as nonbinary and uses the pronoun “they,” has spent the last several years promoting the work of other artists through the program Curate Santa Fe, which mounts shows by emerging local artists at venues across town. “I really like helping other people,” they said. “It’s like community service to curate in the way I have.” But Fawn, who did mount a show of their own work at Betterday Coffee last year, had mostly gotten away from their own artistic practice. Fawn was among the first people the Strangers Collective approached about doing a show at No Land when the collective’s art space opened in early 2017. The possibility of mounting an installation represented an opportunity for the hands-on artistic engagement and studio practice Fawn’s other activities rarely allowed time for anymore.
A year in the making, developed in the absence of Fawn’s wife, who was deployed overseas in the military. “I was so desperate to feel this sense of home. She was in Africa, right above Somalia and across from Yemen. It took a long time to figure out when she was coming home. She kept getting delayed over and over again. I kept having this thing about homecoming and what it means to come home. Then she came home and it was awesome, but there was something that was incomplete about it. That completion for me was about coming home to myself.”
Home can be wherever you might happen to find yourself, whether indoors or out, even though we tend to regard a home as a dwelling with four walls and a roof. The intermingling of a domestic interior with the organic world suggests that the forest, too, can be home. While creating Fawn was inspired by the practice of forest bathing, or
in Japanese, which is simply about being immersed in nature and connecting with it through all of the senses. There is evidence that forest bathing has measurable health benefits, particularly for the immune system.
Inside the installation, round dinner plates are mounted on the walls, not unlike the kinds of collectors’ plates people display as part of their home decor. The difference is that the plates bear vivid imagery of flora and fauna — a coiling snake and a stately raven are situated amid intricately detailed floral blossoms. Tree limbs twine along the walls. A hollowed-out tree