For the past fifty-two years, I have lived in Boone, North Carolina, not far from a large, empty frame house near the hospital. I pass it frequently going to and coming from nearby Blowing Rock.
Over the years, I have made several paintings of the neglected house, never able to capture in any one picture the depth of my feeling for the place. I never knew any inhabitants of the home, of course, for they had long since departed before my arrival, but with each visit to the site, I try to imagine the laughter and tears that once accumulated within its walls. It was not the house, per se, that appealed to me, as much as its presence, its enduring and stubborn refusal to simply disappear after being abandoned.
It was not lost on me as the small, mountain town of Boone grew and developed that one day the property would likely change ownership. Throughout North Carolina, as it is across this great country, the insatiable lust for profit and gain has seen structures like this one -proud reflections of a time gone by – razed to the ground and replaced by a service station or a mall, all in the name of progress.
Earlier this year (2021), when I passed the house, I saw heavy equipment being moved into the yard. The following day, returning to the site, what had once been a house, a nurturing home, was replaced by a monstrous pile of splintered wood and shingles. In a matter of hours, decades of life within that house had been erased. Now, some two months later, all the debris has been removed. Bulldozers have leveled the ground for another hospital building, or a parking lot.
On the day of March 29, 2021, I painted the picture shown below. I call it, Last Light. I can’t say with any certainty that this will be the last painting I will make of this old house, for it has become an old friend. The physical house may be gone, but not my memories of the place.
As I do with many of my “Diary Pictures,” I penned the following words near the base of the canvas: “In late afternoon, on the day before the bulldozers came to level the old house, she took a final walk in the yard at last light.”