Not many people have visions of a large scale art installation when they’re driving down a road and spot a derelict and abandoned farmhouse. However, artist Heather Benning was inspired by the desolate nature of an old farmhouse on a drive down a Saskatchewan road in 2006 and transformed the building into a life-size dollhouse.
Benning was inspired by the dollhouse architectural style that the farmhouse naturally seemed to embody. By transforming the aging farmhouse into the child-like platform for a life-size toy, Benning evokes a nostalgia for a past time that everyone wishes for but can never return to.
In her way, she was returning to a memory and recreating it via the art and architecture of the doll house. Speaking about the art installation, Benning says,
I was preoccupied with a notion of nostalgia and the idea that one longs for a simpler place in time. With The Dollhouse I wanted to show both the romantic nostalgia of that ideal and simultaneously show the reality.
The art installation shows the farmhouse in conflict with itself since the interiors of the house are all perfectly put together in bright colors with vintage furniture, and are covered with a transparent plexi glass for public viewing. The interiors of the dollhouse look warm and inviting with every chair and table perfectly in place. But the exterior of the farmhouse shows the weathering decay of 40 year old wood.
Some of the major ideas behind Benning’s dollhouse is the nostalgia of home, a place of comfort that gets left behind in the derelict past. Speaking about the idea of home, Benning says,
This project is/was about the difficulty and sadness of leaving home due to economics. It’s about remembering home–a home when you were a child and there were moments of complete stability, as though nothing would ever change, like the walls of a dollhouse–then becoming an adult and realizing that one’s world will always change.
However, Benning burned down the farmhouse-turned-dollhouse six years after she built it because the structural strength of the house was being defeated by the weather conditions. With this drastic measure, Benning underlines the reality of the inevitability of moving on from old homes and dollhouses.
Check out some of the photos of the Dollhouse art project: