What Is It Like to Grow Up Living in a Work of Art?

Jun 10, 2014

Carousel, 2011 Courtesy of the Artist
Credit Leo Saul Berk

“Can a house make you who you are?” That’s the central question of The Uncertainty of Enclosure, the newest exhibit from Seattle-based artist Leo Saul Berk. 

The show, which opened last Friday at UW-Milwaukee’s Institute of Visual Arts, includes 12 pieces done over three years inspired by Berk's childhood home, the Ford House, in Aurora, Illinois. 

It was an unconventional house in which to grow up. Designed by progressive American architect Bruce Goff, Ford House is made of unique materials, like coal and rope, and from those materials Goff created organically shaped living spaces based on the lines and curves of nature.  

It looks beautiful, but was a challenge to live in, Berk says. It leaked, it was hot in the summer, and cold in the winter. Despite all that, it was still home - if you consider home to be a sculpture. Berk drew on the experience of living in Ford House to explore how it made him the artist he is.

Ford House exterior
Credit Leo Saul Berk

The Ford House is one of the few Goff designed homes still standing. This exhibition is the first time all of Berk's works based on the Ford House are on display.

"To see it all together, 12 pieces in the gallery at the same time, is really exciting," Berk says. "The connections that I maybe knew in the back of my mind were there, are suddenly right in front of me, and that’s been really satisfying."

Berk, along with Sara Krajewski, the director of INOVA, talked with Lake Effect in the studio last week. We were joined on the phone by Rob Dillon of Third Coast Percussion. That ensemble will present a concert Wednesday night that is also inspired by the Goff house, and by Berk's artwork.