For today’s session, 22 participants gathered on Zoom to closely observe the painting “Woodley Interior, Summer I” by Ephraim Rubenstein, part of his series titled The Woodley Suite series “on aging houses, broken bodies, and the passage of time.”
Participants started the session by sharing in the chat the first three things that they noticed as they looked through the doorways of the painting into glimpses of the rooms beyond. Items noted included a fragment of mirror behind the open door, the rug, light fixtures in the hall, the plant, angles of light, the sofa, and bookcase with disordered books. From these observations the conversation expanded, and we began noticing the contrasts that influenced the varied perceptions of the painting, the rooms, and perhaps the house itself. Some noted that the overall effect felt artificial or staged, that the rooms were too clean and spare to feel lived in, and yet at the same time others noted the evident sag in the couch that suggested years of use and the books that seemed to have been read and put away on impulse. Others noted that because of the clear, spare nature of the rooms their initial feeling was cold, despite the suggestion of summer by the green seen through the far window, while others felt welcomed by the warmth of the paint colors and the light spilling from the brighter rooms into the hall and the room inhabited by the “viewer.” Some speculated on who the viewer was– themselves invited in or intruding or a resident of the house whose “eye” we were borrowing. Some created stories of who might live there, the last sibling from a family moved on, and others saw a moment suspended before the viewer walked into the next rooms that we only saw fragments of, invited by the escalating brightness of light. At the close, the title and painter were revealed, along with the purpose of the series, which added new perspectives to the discussion of who may have lived in, visited, or departed this space.
After the discussion, participants were given the choice to either “Write about entering a room” or “Draw a meaningful room.” As it happened, everyone who shared had written, and the writing provided even more wonderful insights into the ideas of space and feeling embodied within it. One writer wrote “I enter my room. I enter my life” and then later “my soul,” illustrating the possible metaphors of interior space. Another wrote about the contrast of anxiety and anticipation in entering a new room, questioning if there would be “space for me” and welcome with those who already exist there. Another piece shifted our perspective to someone entering a room that “smelled as he remembered,” before running his hands over a counter, searching for a table that he could not find before sitting on the floor, prompting many to consider what senses may not be available to all, and what other ways we can focus on the experience of a space. And one piece brought us directly into a room of grief, where family warmth and shared experience came together to both say goodbye and remember a loved one departed, an experience and memory that the room then held and kept for the writer and all.
The close attention to the work and one another, discussion of varied perspectives and experiences, and willingness and courage to share what was drafted in reflection created a moving and profound hour for all. We thank everyone who participated, and encourage those who were not able to share their writing or drawing in the moment to post here, if they are comfortable doing so. Thank you for joining us and we hope to see you again at another session soon!
Participants are warmly encouraged to share what you wrote below (“Leave a Reply”), to keep the conversation going here, bearing in mind that the blog of course is a public space where confidentiality is not assured.
Also, we would love to learn more about your experience of these sessions, so if you’re able, please take the time to fill out a follow-up survey of one to two quick questions!
Please join us for our next session Monday, December 14th at 6pm EST, with more times listed on our Live Virtual Group Sessions page.