By William Sweet
Photos by Paul Teeling
Before the houses appeared on Emily’s lawn, they spent time at Deerfield Academy.
At first glance, it looks like a tiny housing development has cropped up in the environs of the Emily Dickinson Museum. The 40 little white houses call to mind the poetic style of Dickinson herself: carefully prepared, diligently arranged and deceptively spare. There aren’t any tiny people living here, though—just big ideas.
A stroll through the public art exhibit—from Sweetser Park and the Gates Lot on Main Street in Amherst to the museum grounds, and on to the nearby Amherst Woman’s Club and Hills House—provides a walk through Dickinson’s poetry. On each of the 8-foot-tall structures are Dickinson lines writ large: “The brain is wider than the sky,” “Judge tenderly of me,” “Art is a house that tries to be haunted.”
The installation Dwell in Possibility is the brainchild of 16-year-old Deerfield Academy student Peter Krasznekiewicz, who is enamored with both Dickinson’s powerful verse and the landscape-dominating artwork of the artist Christo. The exhibit, first erected at Deerfield Academy last year, will be in Amherst through the end of June.
“These houses bring Emily’s poems alive in a very contemporary way,” Terry Rooney, chair of the Amherst Public Art Commission, told the museum.
Krasznekiewicz picked the quotes “for their brevity and relevance in today’s world,” he says. “It is my hope that people slow down and give some thought to the words written on the houses.”
When the exhibit closes, Krasznekiewicz will donate its materials to a Pioneer Valley Habitat for Humanity project. He has already donated scrap wood from the project to local schools and artists, to be used as canvases for new paintings based on Dickinson’s poems. Some of these paintings will be on display in the Dickinson Homestead through June and featured in the 2012 Amherst Biennial this fall.
“I never thought it would get this big,” says John Krasznekiewicz, the artist’s father. The teen is overseeing the installation and the publication of a related book, all while preparing for his final exams.
“This has turned into two years of sometimes 40-hour weeks,” his father says. “I’m so proud of him.”
See for yourself
The Little White House Project: “Dwell in Possibility” is on display from May 10 to June 30 at the college’s Emily Dickinson Museum. Visitors are welcome, at no cost, from dawn to dusk. For more about the project and the museum, go to www.emilydickinsonmuseum.org.