"Places" is a new feature by where local artists show us the places around town that inspire them.
Guest post by Anna Caritj
“My muse is everyone’s grandma,” says Patrick Costello, scraping his foot along the sidewalk in front of his “huge, beautiful, double porch Charlottesville mansion” at 712 Nalle St. We’ve just rounded the block, the neighborhood speckled with lush back gardens, long wraparound porches and bits of broken glass. The walk is familiar to Costello; a circumambulation of sorts, in which the young artist consciously moves around the sacred object of his inspiration: the home.
In this way, his affinity for grandmas makes sense. He works with materials of the home, using tools of comfort and closeness by stitching soft fabrics, jamming handpicked wine berries, and reaching out to his housemates—his “family unit,”—for collaboration and inspiration.
Does this place remind you of anything?
My grandparents’ house in Idaho Falls. When we’re there, my grandma is cooking, my mom is cooking, her sister is cooking and there are a million kids and a million people everywhere in this really small little space. [As kids,] we were always putting on plays and playing music in the living room and there was always noise everywhere. This house has that same energy. I don’t need it to be quiet; the presence of other people helps my work. I’m a verbal processor and if there are people to talk to and things going on, ideas happen.
Does nostalgia come into play when dealing with the home?
When you’re dealing with the domestic sphere as a point of inspiration, it can very quickly become too precious or too dark. It’s something I’ve always struggled with in my work. Often times I look back at it later and I’m like, “Ughh! This is so…benign, so precious.” That’s where I tend to lean more than the dark side of nostalgia: I tend to over-romanticize. I don’t want to make art that’s nostalgic and precious, but I don’t want to make art that’s not tied to place and memory. I’m sitting between so many of those ideas, but that’s why I make art: I want to be part of the process.
Many of Costello’s pieces reflect this focus on relationships, closeness, and home. They often feature an enclosed center or core, filled with shooting stars or endless, oceanic waves of earthen mounds (“I spent a whole Spring drawing the compost heap over and over and over,” he says.) Surrounding these spaces of cosmic and agrarian infinitude are pastel geometric patterns, reminiscent both of thick woven afghans and the beams and bricks that construct a sturdy home.
In a piece called “Gimmiedat!”, two hands—swarming with streaking comets and celestial dazzle—cradle a quilted space in efforts to grasp the core: a foamy, green, seemingly sacred triangle. However, the fingertips never quite reach around that site of warmth, implying a piece always missing, always incomprehensible, when it comes to the meaning of home, of place, and of comfort. This unreachable space also suggests an open and infinitely flexible expanse rather than one of stagnancy and entrapment. Here, "place" is not static, but ever changing, teeming with creation, destruction and an endless spectrum in between.