JULY 2023-JUNE 2024
In 1982, I pulled up stakes from Colorado and plunked myself down in Elika, Lakonia, Greece. I intended to immerse myself in village life while documenting its transition in narratives and photographs. By the end of the second year, I had spent my modest grant money, and the Gulf War had intensified. So, with the makings of my book Dancing Girl: Themes and Improvisations in a Greek Village Setting in hand, I returned to the States. But I had thrived in Elika, and I wanted to go back to a home of my own there. So before leaving, I searched for the appropriate house to buy.
My quest eventually took me to a previously untrodden path along a ravine that skirted the village. Sixty meters down, a house waited for me. It was roofless. Abandoned for decades, it had been used only to stable sheep. And—it commanded a view. A mosaic of red clay-tile rooftops, a sea of olive trees, and the sometimes-restless Lakonian Gulf stretching toward a distant horizon. In 1984, when I was forty, I purchased the mantri (sheep corral). Over the course of the next ten years, with patience and persistence, I restored the building and grounds stone-by-stone—single-handedly.
All told, I sojourned in Elika intermittently for nearly forty years. Every time I followed the path to the house, I did so with a profound sense of anticipation and belonging. Eventually, to spiti, the house that sheltered me physically, came to represent “home” in the broadest sense. And to monopati, the path leading to it, came to represent not just a physical route, but the journey home.
Recently, I handed the house keys over to its next steward. This time of letting go of one experience in order to accommodate another—overseeing the Museum of Authenticity—seemed like the perfect time to create the exhibit, HOMING.
The exhibit begins with 20th-century prints by American, French-American, German-American, Swedish-American, Hungarian-Mexican, and young Diné/Navajo artists whose images elicit a sense of “home” and/or “the road home.” They remind me of the Greek village house I restored, the path to it, the village setting, and/or places in Greece where I have loved to be, like Mystras (near Sparti in the Peloponnisos) and Metsovo (in the precinct Ioannina in northern Greece).
These works by other artists are juxtaposed with pieces of my own making that were inspired by my experience of bringing the ruin back to life, and documenting and participating in Greek village life. Although I no longer possess a key to the house, I will forever be able to unlock its door and enter at will.
We hope you will approach each piece in the exhibit HOMING with openness and curiosity, and that you will honor your personal experience of each object on display in addition to and apart from trying to understand the artist’s intention in creating it. The creative process can be deeply personal, revealing, and meaningful. So, too, the viewing.
Thordis Nela Simonsen