Portrait of a House

Fortune and opportunity have always been present throughout my life. Sometimes they appear separately and other times they arrive together. One such time where fortune gave me the opportunity to take a risk that changed the course of my life, appeared to be random. Only later did I realize it was by design.

 

In my early 20s I landed the dream house sitting gig. A very wealthy family asked if I would be willing to stay at their Summer estate during the fall, winter, and spring for two years. As they only visited in the warmer months and didn’t want anything to happen while they were away. I quickly accepted without hesitation, packed my belongings and moved out of the basement I was living in, not really knowing what I was about to move into.

 

It turned out to be one of the most beautiful, serene properties I had ever seen. A sprawling estate surrounded almost entirely by water, with a main house, guest house, kids bunkhouse,  massive garage, private dock, and tennis court. The grounds surrounding the estate were immaculate and equivalent to any city park. Complete with gentle pathways, lush groves of trees, multitudes of flora and fauna, park benches, and acres of fairway quality grass. 

 

The main house was designed by an award-winning architect and nothing short of perfection. The detail and craftsmanship were second to none, using materials such as teak, sandstone, copper, ipe, cedar and fir to create the feeling of exotic northwest modern luxury. Every detail was bespoke, the furniture was made for the space, light fixtures were custom, even the door handles were hand made. Not a single detail was missed and every imaginable luxury was present. One side of the main house was all glass and faced the water giving one the feeling that they were always part of the outdoors. While being completely surrounded by the landscape in a private oasis, everything on the property was perfection. 

 

Every morning I pinched myself to be sure I wasn’t still dreaming. Yet there I was; a poor 20-year-old kid with barely anything in the bank living in a multi-million dollar estate. After the initial awestruck and amazement started to wear off, it dawned on me where I was living. It was a place of peace and beauty, a stark contrast to my working life. The physically demanding fast-paced life of a carpenter living paycheck to paycheck. At the time I had all but given up painting and succumbed to the fact that I would never amount to anything as an artist. But after living in the house for some time, inspiration struck.

 

I was inspired by all the beauty around me and desperately wanted to thank those who afforded me this luxury. After much consideration I decided to create a piece to give them as a thank you. I spent the next year photographing the estate through all the seasons capturing details from the interior architecture and exterior landscape. Then narrowed it down to 29 images that created an intimate portrait of their house. Next came the construction of the physical piece, which was an elaborate teak frame with pegged, finger jointed, mortise and tenon corners which mirrored the trellises present throughout the property. Inside the frame were 29 individually wrapped canvases varying in size, arranged to mimic the elaborate stonework on the estate. I spent the next year painstakingly painting the images onto the canvases. 

 

Shortly after completing the piece my tenure on the property was coming to an end. Yet I still couldn’t bring myself to give up something I had devoted myself to for so long. So I packed it up and moved on with my life. Not realizing that a seed of inspiration had started to grow within myself. Inspiration to create and continue my artistic practice, something that quickly overcame my desire to be a carpenter. A few years passed and I was finally ready to let go of the piece, so I reached out to the family and scheduled the delivery. 

 

I knew they collected art, but didn’t understand how prolific they were in their collection. I arrived at their main residence and was ushered into their house only to be greeted by the most awe inspiring collection of art. Immediately faced by a 10ft Rothko in the entryway, I understood what I was walking into. I started sweating bullets, anxiety washed over me as I realized how unworthy I was to be there. They walked me into the living room and asked me to sit. I sat there palms sweaty holding my painting, (which was still covered at the moment) surrounded by a massive 12ft Picasso and a 10ft foot Warhol. The pressure was so intense I could feel my heart beating out of my chest. But, there I was, so I had no choice but to move forward and begin to unwrap my painting.

 

Once the piece was unveiled they were ecstatic and overwhelmed, after I explained the intention and story behind it they immediately chose to hang the piece in that very living room! I was dumbfounded. I could not believe that my work was about to hang next to Picasso and Warhol. This was the pivotal moment in my art, as I knew I had no choice but to pursue my creativity for the rest of my life. It was an unspoken point of validation that gave me the confidence I so desperately needed. From that point forward I gave up carpentry and have pursued my creativity ever since. Always looking to fortune for any opportunity that may present itself.  Knowing that once you set foot on this path the wind will set you free.

 

Let go the comfort of conformity to give fire to the spark that sets your life ablaze.

 

-jke

© 2023 Justin Kane Elder info@justinkaneelder.com

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