Seeing Adrien Broom’s photography is to inhabit a fairy tale. Art enthusiasts have come to know the Connecticut native’s magical, moody aesthetic, from popular creations like A Colorful Dream, a 2016 photo exhibition at the Lyman Allyn Art Museum in New London, to the wonderland portrait sets she offers out of her Erector Square studio in New Haven.
Broom’s artistic journey through different places and times is seen in her latest project, an ever-evolving, two-year multimedia project exploring the history-filled homes of noted artists and writers. Holding Space: Historic Homes Project is taking Broom near and far, from iconic locations here in Connecticut such as the Mark Twain House in Hartford to England, where the project was initiated during a residency. As the title suggests, the project takes a deep look into the lives of artists and writers and their homes.
Inspired by her investigation of every nook and cranny on each estate, Broom lets the experience take over. “I come up with abstract narratives that pay homage to [the artists and writers] and their work and the home,” says Broom, who grew up in East Haddam and Lyme. Those narratives are revealed in her photography, and now, in what will be her directorial debut, in short films. Broom has been working with Michael Leibowitz of Harold Made Inc., out of Brooklyn, New York, in order to bring the video components to life.
“These will be episodic pieces that are part documentary, part art film,” says Broom, adding that her ultimate goal is to have the episodes picked up by a television or streaming channel. “For example, the last house we worked with was the Alice Austen House on Staten Island. We went and did an interview with the director, and are using historical photos, interwoven with short, 5-plus-minute stories shot and acted out in the house. Woven together, they create something very different, challenging and beautiful in celebration of these individuals.” One of America’s earliest, most prolific female photographers with over 8,000 works to her credit, Austen (1866-1952) lived in the house with her partner for 53 years.
One of the goals of the Holding Space project is to produce a book collection and have a traveling exhibition at many of the homes and museums explored. In addition to the Mark Twain and Alice Austen houses, Broom has been to the Wentworth Woodhouse in South Yorkshire, England; Gillette Castle in East Haddam; and the Florence Griswold House in Old Lyme. She’s next en route to take video at the Pollock-Krasner House on Long Island, having already done the photography.
In the meantime, Broom splits her time between Brooklyn and Connecticut, with her studio in New Haven and family in Lyme. The landscapes she grew up with in Connecticut feature heavily in much of her work. “Connecticut is one of my absolute favorite places to create work. In the woods, in an old house, on the beach, everywhere. I live in Brooklyn, but urban scenes aren’t where my heart is. I love the whimsy and wonder felt walking through the woods alone and I try to bring that feeling to a lot of my work, whether it is shot in the woods or in an old home, or in a set in my studio. The appreciation and attachment to that feeling has been with me since a child growing up in Lyme.”
Visitors can see some of Broom’s work in Castles in the Sky: Fantasy Architecture in Contemporary Art, up through Jan. 26 at the Lehman College Art Gallery in the Bronx. And the Holding Spaceproject will be on view at Kenise Barnes Fine Art gallery in Larchmont, New York, from May 3 to June 22.
Online, view Broom’s work at adrienbroom.com or follow her works-in-progress on Instagram @adrienbroom and @holdingspacehomes.