Heightened Awareness of Inequalities and the Housing Crisis (San Jose): A Review of “The House Imaginary” Exhibit


A visit to the The House Imaginary exhibit, at the San Jose Museum of Art, on April 20, 2018, offered an opportunity to discover and understand the exhibit’s primary focus:

In The House Imaginary, the house is a lens through which artists explore memory, identity, and belonging in an increasingly itinerant world.  . . . In adopting the complex archetype of the house to examine a myriad of personal, social, and timely political themes, the artists in the exhibition present work that is diverse in perspective and full of contradiction.

Credits to organizer Lauren Schell Dickens, sponsors Doris and Alan Burgess and the rest of the creative twenty-three artists.

When first hearing the word house, the idea of belonging and comfort came to mind. When hearing the word imaginary, the idea of creativity and connection to memory came to mind. Each of the artists referenced his or her perspectives or views on a certain event or conflict: the housing crisis, inequalities, immigration, homelessness, and many more. The loss of something in life considered to be essential for oneself, the feeling of emptiness and separation from societal standards, and the feelings of desire and belonging.

Memories House ImaginaryArtist, Roger Shimomura, briefly explained and visually represented his memories of childhood. The two years during the World War II, Shimomura and his family spent their lives at a Minidoka War Relocation Center, located in Idaho. And along with all the thousands of people of Japanese ancestry, Shimomura and his family were forced to leave their home. He and his family were not given the freedom nor rights to do anything. This represented an unjust treatment towards the Japanese Americans, who were forced to leave everything behind, which they considered as home. A place of comfort and belonging.

House Imaginary 2


Artist, Salomon Huerta, mentioned about a human being’s physical features. He used the back of a human head for an example, where the skin color, haircut, and ear shape is visible. The visual aspects are what is labeled as an identity. The lack of seeing what is on the inside, rather than the outside. Huerta used this perspective to tie it into the structure of a house. The exterior of the house is painted brightly, but there’s not enough detail to the house itself. The interior features are crucial to understand and acknowledge, and something to consider.

House Imaginary 3

Artist, Rachel Whiteread, used plaster, concrete, rubber, and fiberglass to create an inaccessible dark window. She got this idea from the interior of a Victorian house in London, and decided to sculpt her art. Sunlight cannot enter through this window, nor can anyone see through it. This represents absence. But the reflection of a being or an object remains on the window. This represents memory and longing.

This all ties into the Mary Shelley’s novel Frankenstein: 1831 frontispiece Frankenstein

Victor Frankenstein uses his creativity and imagination to create the creature, which he hoped for it to be a masterpiece, but turned out to be a disappointment. The creature is then rejected by his creator, and is left to survive on his own. Because of the creature’s physical appearance, he is denied by society. And because he’s not fully human, he is treated as a monster. The creature didn’t have a home from the start, and didn’t get the opportunity to know what it’s like to be apart of a family. To be loved. The creature similarly ties into the window that denies transparency. The creature can see his reflection on the window, but he can’t escape from it. In other words, the creature can’t escape from who he is. The memories of Victor recur, and the feelings of sadness, belonging, and anger mix together.

Overall, “The House Imaginary” exhibit was quite an interesting experience. The similarities between the artist’s work and the meaning behind each one, along with the characters from the novel. The understanding of identity, and how it it is to be defined. Not by the outer appearance, but the significance of the inner. The importance of a home, depicting comfort, belonging, and memories. The ability to utilize creativity and imagination to decorate a house, and the hope and change, for an equally well-constructed society.

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