The Domestic Realm

By Paula Lalala

Domestic Interior, Object of Personal Meaning, Childhood Bed, 2014

Art has always had a relationship to the domestic sphere¹. Sometimes art collector’s homes or artist’s homes become art museums. My art explores the private realm and the public realm in relation to contemporary art. I experiment in intersubjectivity, exploring the role and function of the artist, the art object, the art venue, and the art viewer.

Homes, my own and other peoples, have always been significant sites for my work. Everything including large scale installations, exhibitions, and performances, as well as individual works hanging on walls. Some of my earliest art projects, in the mid 1980’s, were installations in abandoned locations; homes, barns, vacant lots. In 1990, while still in art school, I began holding large scale exhibitions and art events in my home. This has been a conscious choice arising out of feminist aesthetics, social practice, and institutional critique.

Domestic Interior, Stamatis-Wainscott House, 2010

So much suffering takes place in the privacy of our homes, but home is also the place of healing and refuge. The domestic realm is the place of respite and restoration, our sanctuary in every sense of the word. There are a range of domestic environments and not everyone is fortunate enough to have a home. Our private spaces are where society is woven together at a fundamental level. In the domestic arena we connect with one another in the most intimate and vulnerable ways. But it is not a one way relationship. We invite the world into our home through technological media. Our domestic environments exist within social and economic constructs which define some of the parameters for our day to day lives.

Domestic Interior Detail, Baumann House, 2016

In Western society the domestic and the public realms are usually thought of separately, but they have always had some overlap. The distinction between these realms is undergoing a shift, in part due to changes facilitated by technology, but also due to shifts in thinking such as that outlined in “Unfinished Business: Women, Men, Work, Family”, by former Director of Policy Planning for the U.S. State Department, Anne Marie Slaughter. She makes the case that both arenas, what she refers to as the caring and the competitive realms, are important, and advocates “striving toward a good ‘work/life fit’”.
The domestic environment and public art exhibition venue environment differ in innumerable ways. If an object is placed on display in a museum does it automatically become a work of art? Placing art in the home allows for contemplation over a different time frame. What happens when a work of art is encountered day-to-day, as compared to a more limited time frame typical of a gallery visit?

Depp-Joy House, 2014

Homes are filled with objects possessing a range of aesthetic values and personal meaning. These objects may be personally significant for numerous reasons – they are associated with an experience, a moment, a relationship, a place, and so on. Is it possible for others to perceive some of the meaning these objects possess for their owners? How does our perception of these objects change when we take them out of the home and place them on display in a public gallery?

Domestic Interior Detail, Olana, 2016

In many ways we are all artists². Whether we are conscious of it or not, aesthetics inform our decisions every day; what clothes to put on, how to wear our hair, how to decorate our home.

Art In My Home, 2017

What constitutes an art audience? Is the community encountering a work of art in a home any different than those encountering it in a gallery?

Red Sofa, Grey Room, 2016

Bathroom Mirrors, 2017

Drescher Residence, 2016
Rooney Kitchen, 2015

McIntyre-Dine Home, 2017
Handelsman Home, 2017
Bedroom In Weatherford, 2015
Bookshelves and Loveseat, 2019
McGlockton Dining Table, 2018

1.) “House of the Lilies” –

Claes Oldenberg and Coosje vanBruggen “Bedroom Ensemble” –

Judy Chicago, Miriam Shapiro, et. al. “Womanhouse” –

Elmgreen & Dragset “Past Tomorrow” –

2.) Group Material “The People’s Choice (Arroz con Mango)” –

Joseph Beuys –