Monica Dixon
The house shelter the dream
by Natalia Alonso Arduengo
El Cuaderno – November 2017

This Friday the exhibition "Somewhere... Nowhere" by Monica Dixon opens to the public at the Guillermina Caicoya Gallery in Oviedo.

 "The house is a concrete scenario,
of each other's lives,
while a broader notion of
architecture implies generalization,
distance, abstraction."
Inhabiting, Juhani Pallasmaa

When Ella May and Tike Hamlin cursed their wooden shack while yearning for an adobe shack, they placed the desired "earth house" and its ruinous antithesis at the center of their lives. This means that the house is not only a physical space, but also a symbolic one. It is not only a construction of bricks or boards, but also of memories and dreams. Its meaning goes beyond the mere fact of giving shelter, it is an affective space that reflects the identity of the inhabitant.
"How much longer are we gonna be stuck in this old jail?" Woody Guthrie put these words in Ella May's mouth because in the novel A House on Earth the home sweet home does not exist except in the dream.
In Somewhere... Nowhere Mónica Dixon confronts the spectator as a living subject to a double reality: the dream house in front of abstract architecture, the chimeric home versus a scenario characterized by spatial neutrality. The first is represented in its exterior aspect and the second one in an interior way. The inside and outside should have a continuity, a complementarity, but the truth is that these works are distinguished precisely for this reason, by the tension and dichotomy existing between both parties even though the absence of the inhabitant is a common link in the two approaches.
It is more than likely that Juhani Pallasmaa is right to say that "perhaps the idea of home is not at all a notion of architecture, but of sociology, psychology and psychoanalysis". The home sweet home is symbolized by the notion of the "dream house" defined by Gaston Bachelard in his book The Poetics of Space. This one should have an attic and a basement. The first corresponds to the symbolic place where to store pleasant memories, while the unpleasant ones are stored in the second. The mental prototype of "dream house" is a sine qua non condition for the metaphysical roots of its inhabitant. For Carl G. Jung, architectural archetypes would correspond to primitive images linked to experiences, emotions and associations. The landscapes with Dixon's house would be in this category, while the interiors, starring concepts such as space and light would be on the margins of those universal images of the human mind.
"The house houses the dream," Bachelard wrote. For the French philosopher, “the memories of the ancient dwellings are revived as daydreams, the dwellings of the past are in us imperishable". The original home accompanies the sleeper-inhabitant for the rest of his or her life, even though the address changes. Because the dream refers to sensations, smells... not so much to spatial and architectural aspects. Our unconscious would be crouching in the primitive abode and the closest to it would be the birthplace. Perhaps one of the keys of Monica Dixon's landscapes is there, in her memory, in some mental scenes of places that do not exist or only in small doses as a reflection of some territory subsumed in the unconscious of the painter and her North American origins. Great plains, lands of wind and dust in Oklahoma, Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska or the Texas Panhandle where Woody Guthrie lived and which is the leitmotif of his novel.  Lonely, isolated and vulnerable houses on the breadth of the plain thanks to the natural elements and marked by the stigma of a past, but not forgotten, Dust Bowl. It is the landscape of Guthrie, but also of John Steinbeck or the photograph of Dorothea Lange.
Modern architecture has tried to avoid or eliminate the image of the "dream house". According to Pallasmaa,"he seems to have completely abandoned life and fled to pure architectural invention. Authentic architecture represents and reflects a way of life, an image of life. Instead, contemporary buildings often appear empty and do not seem to represent a real or authentic way of life. The contemporary architectural avant-garde has consciously rejected the concept of home. Under our socio-cultural idea of home we hope that your spaces are divided into living rooms, bedrooms, bathrooms... but in the interiors of "Somewhere... Nowhere" that does not happen generating restlessness and a certain disorientation. When you enter a dwelling, you enter the world of those who live in it through their furniture, their personal belongings. There's nothing here but an architectural play of light and space. We don't even know if it's really a house. It could be any transit space in any building anywhere in the world. They're interiors that don't reveal intimidation. Does an uninhabited house preserve the condition of a house?

There is something in Monica Dixon's canvases that makes the viewer hold his breath. Initially, it can be linked to its technical perfection and the halted atmosphere. But the aesthetic asepsis of his work is not the only cause because, in a second reading, we become aware that the authentic punch of his works lies in confronting us when we live in its purest and speculative state. As contemporary subjects of a society that lives in constant change and acceleration, the stillness of these works brings us to a profound metaphysical reflection. Before these houses that seem to be inhabited by no one, doubts arise. Is the present man a homeless man as Otto Friedrich Bollnow asked himself? Perhaps, as philosopher Françoise Collin maintains,"In a way, we now carry our house behind our backs like a snail. Our home is wherever we are. Because perhaps, returning to Bollnow,"to dwell more than the possession of a house is an interior spiritual disposition of the subject".