South Shore Living, March/April 2005

"Thoughts of Home"


Psychologists say we all have a reference point – smells, snatches of memory, feelings – that periodically resurface about the house we grew up in, the one place for us that will always mean ‘home.’ Losing a cherished family home is a painful experience most people are forced to deal with at some point. Heartache and loss are the eventual price we pay for the gift of a place where we have loved and lived. How we deal with the emotions accompanying grief vary from individual to individual. Artists have always dealt with their pain differently than us less talented folk. Emotions are expressed through their chosen medium for audiences to recognize and react to.

Artist Prilla Smith Brackett spend her childhood summers and holidays at her family’s home in Duxbury. The Powder Point house has been in her family since 1915 and has always represented love and security. The happy occasions she spent there were shared with numerous cousins, aunts, uncles, and grandparents. Many generations including her son Matt, a very talented painter in his own right, enjoyed the same family traditions and gatherings.

Five years ago, Prilla’s mother passed away and with her death the grieving family soon learned of the imminent loss of the home as well. Both mother and son have dealt with their respective emotions through a series of paintings of and about the house. The Brackett’s are thrilled to be working in tandem on a project at the Duxbury Art Complex this spring to exhibit their separate but parallel exploration of what the house means to them.

Themes of loss and uncertainty inspired Prilla’s work, “Touch Stone,” a unique series of paintings of fragments of the house including the views from inside and out that blend the surrounding landscape with the house. The landscape interacts with the house itself, the trees acting as stand-ins for people long gone. Prilla sometimes imagines the house and the land as one living organism. The still quiet images of the sleeping porch seen through a window or looking out an upstairs window into the back yard, serve as fleeting mixed up memories not meant to recall a complete day or conversation. They, like real memories, are incomplete and simply invoke a fleeting smell, image, feeling or word. Each painting is a piece of the house as a whole, like photos taken from different angles. The series is an album of Prilla’s memories with all the moments having been dripped and shuffled.

Matt Brackett’s work is like looking at bits and pieces of someone else’s dreams. In his series called “We All Have something To Do,” he captures moments that never happened, at least in waking life. Matt spent time as a carpenter and has taken that part of his life and superimposed it with memories of family. He takes good-natured and willing family members and poses them in a variety of positions usually wielding tools and photographs them. He then paints an image of a room in the house and adds his loved ones where he imagines they should be. For Matt Brackett the carpentry tools in his art serve as representation of demolition and reconstruction.

Complex Conversations is a new initiative for the Art Complex Museum in Duxbury. In this new series two artists whose works are somehow complementary are exhibited together. The works of Prilla Smith Brackett and Matt Brackett are the launching event of the series and runs through April 10.


©Tara Cronin 2005