House Warming

Some clutch pictures of loved ones, others lug around heavy books. A number even tote cell phones. As two Boulder artists have discovered, the homeless take their personal effects everywhere.

Ariadna Capasso and Patricia Tinajero-Baker have also learned that the definition of "home" doesn't have to include walls and a roof; it can simply mean what's on one's person. The pair's audio and visual findings are presented in Carry On, an exhibit now on display at the Boulder Public Library.

"We started hanging out at shelters and asking people if we could look inside their bags," says Capasso, who, along with Tinajero-Baker, spent the better part of two years interviewing the "houseless" and photographing their possessions.

"These are the only possessions that they have. One man has been carrying a cowboy hat for 35 years; another carries a teddy bear that belonged to his daughter."

Capasso and Tinajero-Baker, who met while they were both getting master's degrees from the University of Colorado, recorded the stories of these nomadic people to go along with the photographs they had snapped of them. Those images were then blown up to life size and printed on large cardboard sheets. "We chose cardboard because for some people, that is their home," says Capasso, who also interviewed homeless people on the streets of New York City. "Home is something that is essential to being human, and once you see that they have these belongings, it's a way of connecting. It makes them more human."

For Carry On's opening-night reception, organizers will forgo the usual art-show fare of hors d'oeuvres and wine. Instead, Capasso and Tinajero-Baker are collaborating with Cultiva Garden Youth Program to serve a free meal to those in need. "We have established a relationship with this people," says Capasso. "We're still in touch, and we care about them.

"We thought it would be the perfect opportunity for 'regular' people and houseless people to interact," she adds. "Maybe they'll realize they have more in common than they think."

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Julie Dunn
Contact: Julie Dunn