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Charlottetown art exhibit explores a deeper meaning of homelessness

Sion Irwin-Childs stands beside a self-portrait, as if he were going back in time and 'fusing my energy with the house.' (Victoria Walton/CBC - image credit)
Sion Irwin-Childs stands beside a self-portrait, as if he were going back in time and 'fusing my energy with the house.' (Victoria Walton/CBC - image credit)

As P.E.I. and much of the country deals with a housing crisis, an Island artist is provoking thoughts on what it actually means to be homeless.

The exhibit A Home in My Heart by Sion Irwin-Childs opened last week at The Guild in Charlottetown and runs until March 10.

It's a combination of photography, video and soundscapes that Irwin-Childs says addresses the "elephant in the room."

"The show is interesting because when we think about the idea of what homelessness is, we use the word homeless instead of houseless. Houseless is in fact the reality of what the situation is. But home is an abstract. You can build a house, you cannot build a home. Home can be people, not just a place."

Irwin-Childs spent "hundreds of hours" in an abandoned house on P.E.I.. He imagined who lived there, who called it their home. He eventually felt at home there himself, and the artwork portrays the energy and history of the space.

The exhibit is a combination of photography, video and soundscapes (Victoria Walton/CBC)

"It's kind of a love story, kind of just by capturing the different surfaces and wallpapers, you begin to get an idea that it was definitely a family," he said in an interview with Island Morning.

"Perhaps it was older people, including grandparents who were left behind and they passed away. Perhaps everybody else in the family has moved off island, which is typical. And then there was nobody to take it over. And then it has just fallen into disrepair."

A Home in My Heart runs until March 10 at The Guild in Charlottetown. (Victoria Walton/CBC)

One of the images shows a wall in the house that was painted by hand, presumably by someone who lived there.

"All of a sudden it made me think this isn't just a house. Somebody cared enough about this place to be able to transform this into a proper home, and so some of the images depict me going back as if I am fusing my energy with the house, as if I am back in time."

Many of the photos were double exposures using 35-millimetre film. (Victoria Walton/CBC)

Irwin-Childs said it highlights the importance of home and belonging.

"A house is just the thing. But if you have a sense of belonging … what is it to belong somewhere, to something, or to someone? And if you don't belong to any of those three, you are probably floating in some kind of nebulous space. And how is it possible for you to ever find a sense of peace and happiness?"