“Nature is a haunted house – but Art – is a house that tries to be haunted.”
– Emily Dickinson
Emily Dickinson spent the latter half of her life writing poems in recluse, writing lyrical odes to flowers, to birds, to bees, to nature, at her desk in her room shut off from the subjects she writes about longingly but lovingly. So habituated in the interiors was she that half of her time is equally spent still shut off from the outside world as she bakes in the warmness of her house’s hearth. The darkness and dankness of voids, all things that gape wide and shut close, things that writhe and coil, things that flower and bloom, to things and places that bode filial ties to the womb and to soil and to dirt, such is the realm where woman dwells, as so instituted by her biology. Not a choice but conditioned so. Or is this the natural order of things?
The house is always the house where she should be. Woman House seems an analogical synonym. Judy Chicago and Miriam Schapiro made a transcriptive collaborative installation of it in 1971where rooms of an old mansion depicted allegories to the wiles and troubles of women. Sarah’s Woman House is a house rebuilt from memory, not always good ones, not always fond happy ones but fragmented and as broken as her past that keeps haunting her, somewhere in a seemingly placid bucolic lakeside town of Binangonan, a town equally rife of secrets and tales. All these make up for a gothic tragedy where one might find the heroine hopelessly trapped in the attic of a house, or kept hidden in an underground cellar, her presence whispered only through the rumor mill, furthering her entrapment by the town’s tyrannical prejudice. Instead, Sarah exorcises those phantoms from her past through her art, revisiting if needed be, to confront and cast off that shadow which has lingered far too long, coming out as “flowers grow out of dark moments. “ (Corita Kent), finding fortitude and strength in the kinship of her sisterhood, where in graphite she has drawn their portraits obscured by a flower assigned for each sibling. This is fairly reminiscent of Georgia O’ Keefe’s flower paintings where each blooming specimen is shown in gargantuan macroscopic view of their stigmas and pistils defiantly erect among her velvety labial petals. Although adamant of the Freudian/erotic connotation of her subject, and standing by her objective- formalist stance for painting them, it can never be dissociated of those tendencies and to just see those flowers as mere flowers. She is in a world of her own when she paints them : ““When you take a flower and in your hand and really look at it, it’s your world for the moment.” And O’Keefe holds them for us for a thorough gazing of their parts, to really take time looking at these blossoms as these are precious, fragile, strange, and vulnerable to time and biologic evolution. But do flowers bloom for our mere gaze or rather as Oscar Wilde had quipped that “ a flower blossoms for its own joy “ ?
Perhaps a house ceases to be haunted if it has a garden abloom with such flowers.