Kay Healy’s Starter Home began June 22 with two empty walls at Paradigm Gallery. The gallery doubles as studio space as Healy gets ready to have her work displayed at the Philadelphia International Airport. Throughout the month, visitors can stop in to Paradigm to see Healy’s progress or assist her by coming during Open Community Sewing Hours. In exchange for their labor, visitors learn the trapunto sewing technique that gives Healy’s stuffed creations dimensionality.
Starter Home is composed of four life-size rooms that will be sewn together in a row and displayed behind glass at the airport. Each room is based on conversations between Healy and a South Philadelphia resident about his or her childhood home. While each sewn room is still a work in progress, Healy has a small cardboard and cut fabric mock-up of the final work. Antiques like a claw foot tub and a corded telephone allude to a previous era and suggest a nostalgia for childhood.
Based on the mock-up and works in progress, the most inviting scenes are the living room and family room. While the kitchen and bathroom also have old-fashioned furnishings and décor, they do not have the same level of personal detail. In the family room, there’s a piano to gather around. There are flowers on tables in both rooms. Of the four, these feel the most inhabited, the memories of them more salient, and the idea of home more visible.
The use of fabric in the work also reflects a longing for the past. Healy screenprints all of the fabrics in the installation before assembling each piece. The patterns that she chooses for wallpaper and drapery in each room are indicative of their time period. A macaroni-colored wallpaper with white flowers references the 1960s and 1970s. A jungle leaf pattern reflects a recurring trend for exotic décor. By stuffing the fabric, each object is essentially a pillow — a stand-in for domestic comfort.
Healy’s billowy objects also have a childlike quality. Drawn using wonky perspectives, their compositions share the flatness of children’s drawings. The sewn, three-dimensional elements layered on top appear removed from the frame. Each panel has a stage-like quality, where objects grab attention and look as if they could be moved like playthings. The overall effect is a recollection from childhood when objects loomed large and had an inherent whimsy.
Starter Home runs from June 22 – August 2 at Paradigm Gallery.
Open Community Sewing Hours:
June 27- July 25
Wednesdays – Fridays 4:00 – 8:00 PM
Closing Wine and Cheese Reception:
Friday, July 27
6:00 – 10:00 PM
Gallery Open Hours:
Paradigm Gallery recently moved to 803 S. 4th Street, Philadelphia, PA 19147.