i’m jealous of paula rebsom

Oh, this is such a sad, beautiful, inspiring project, titled “If We Lived Here” by Portland based artist Paula Rebsom. Usually my posts are quite short, but I had to give you the full {although, slightly shortened} story. Here’s where Paula’s story begins:

Thirty-one years ago, 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. The 1,300-acre farm is tucked away in the little Badlands of North Dakota and only accessible by 9 miles of scoria road. 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… Last February, after my grandmother gave my parents power of attorney over the property, they burned down the farmhouse, barns and chicken coup for liability concerns … This past September 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 it’s most complex form it is a quiet and haunting, ghostlike reminder of what was, what is no longer, and what may never be. It holds memories far beyond my years and comprehension while at the same time providing a new presence of hope and possibilities for this rural landscape. The landscape my mom was raised on, the land that her and my father would try to make a living off of, a place that I dreamed as a child to call home, the land my sister and I will someday inherit.

See? Sad, beautiful, and oh so inspiring.

comments (13)

  1. judi /// 09.01.2012 /// 8:53am

    sis, check out this amazing artwork…doesn’t it look like our apple orchard behind it?

  2. Artsy Forager /// 09.01.2012 /// 2:41pm

    Heartbreaking yet hopeful. What a lovely tribute to what could have been.

  3. NL /// 09.02.2012 /// 9:00pm

    I love that not only is it poignant, and personal, but it is also living: the bird houses at the back are a really sweet addition. Really impressed with how well this idea has beem thought through.

  4. Susan /// 09.02.2012 /// 9:50pm

    Your family house might have been burned, but the heart and soul will always live hopefully being past down from one generation to another. Can you imagine what your sister and you do in the future at the old homestead?

  5. tiffanie /// 09.04.2012 /// 5:36pm

    This is wonderful, perhaps my favorite thing I’ve seen here, Danielle. Beautiful in concept and execution.

  6. the jealous curator /// 09.04.2012 /// 6:31pm

    sigh… i know, i love it too.

  7. Not So Daily Inspiration 9-6 « berlyn /// 09.06.2012 /// 7:26am

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  8. Weekly Rewind « Fossil Blog /// 09.07.2012 /// 4:16am

    […] This art project by Paula Rebsom was so inspiring to read about. We know the birds appreciate it […]

  9. leslie /// 09.26.2012 /// 10:26pm

    I really enjoy Paula’s work. I have seen it a few times, she is also a lovely person. Very sharp.

    nice shout out.

  10. Jeanne /// 09.28.2012 /// 4:36am

    Wow. This really moved me.

  11. the jealous curator /// 09.28.2012 /// 7:11am

    me too – such a lovely monument.

  12. Paula Rebsom /// 11.13.2012 /// 11:14am

    Hi! Thanks so much for posting about my project and for everyone’s kind words. It’s nice to see the project live on. I just wanted to let you know that quite possibly because of your posting I was interviewed for a program called The Story through American Public Media. It airs today, Nov. 13th! I’m the last story of the three. Thought you’d like to know 🙂

  13. the jealous curator /// 11.13.2012 /// 12:45pm

    that’s amazing! thanks for letting me know paula! and congrats – you deserve every bit of success! xo