Is there a better way through doors? The wrist flick of the knob turn, the coldness of the thing in your hand. For some, there’s the acrid paranoia of germ warfare and persistent sickness. Then, there’s the pull back, arm reaching around the door as a hand lets go and then you step forward. My shoulders always gracelessly bump against the jamb; even after all these years, I still have problems moving my body through space. And then once you’re through, there’s the closing of the door to contend with: do you pull the door closed behind you or do you step into the new space and then turn around and close it? Or perhaps, just keep walking, fuck it, leave the thing open. This is just the purely physical experience.
Are there better ways through doors? Aldous Huxley once quoted (and Jim Morrison was fond enough to quote again for his band, The Doors) the famous William Blake line from The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, “If the doors of perception were cleansed everything would appear to man as it is, infinite. For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things through narrow chinks of his cavern.”
Clare Rojas, the artist, is also a maker of doors, at least here in this show of paintings at Prism. Maybe, I’ll admit, I just like looking at what looks like doors the most. She also represents people and landscapes, many lonesome and quiet and concentrated, but even many of these feel like they're on the other sides of doors flung open. Others in the exhibition stand more noticeably closed. Rojas’ abstract lines seem to lead into and out of places, the patterns like Shaker quilts made manifestly three-dimensional, and quilts (perhaps this is again just me I’ll admit) remind me of home, and back to doorways.
It is almost as if Rojas is teasing us that there are better ways through doors, that doors, composed with her palette of electric primaries and faded shades of brighter hues, are both portals and boundaries. Rojas’ doors feel like they are in houses (again for me, quilted memories of childhood), rather than hanging off of space craft or leading into prisons, important distinctions given the grand breadth of all possible doors.
These passage ways in and out of memories of home, also give you a distant whiff of dangerous nostalgia, which for any etymologists out there breaks down from the Greek into nostos "return home" + algos "pain." Is there pain here in returning home? I’m often reminded of the title of that old American novel by Thomas Wolfe, You Can’t Go Home Again. Are Rojas’ doorways a way of looking back again, or perhaps out into something new? Paintings do invent things after all; that’s sort of their claim to fame. Although they may represent things (doors and people included), they are not those things (Ce n’est pas une pipe) and don’t even have to reference real things; we can cut our own doors wholly from our imagination, homely or unhomely.
I remember reading once that remembering is to change the thing that one remembers. Gaston Bachelard writes a lot about what it means to remember home in his deservedly famous book, The Poetics of Space, that the interior architecture of our psyche is based on the architecture of our childhood homes. My remembered childhood home and my actual childhood home are, however, totally different. Leaving home seems to have an infinity of possibilities, but then again, if Bachelard is right, home is always inside of us, it is the shape of us, and thus coming and going from home is much trickier than one might initially think.
When I think about all the ways into and out of memory, the doors are much like the doors that Clare Rojas is making here, portals composed of some kind of emotional geometry, entries and exits into memory. It’s these doors in particular that I’m always having trouble with, always trying to find a better way into and then hopefully out of again.
(Images: Clare Rojas, Untitled, 2011 Acrylic on linen, 49 x 73 inches (134.6 x 185.4 cm); Untitled, 2011 Acrylic on linen, 49 x 73 inches (134.6 x 185.4 cm) Courtesy the artist and PRISM)