Walls can be barriers to keep out weather and bar the unwanted. Pierced by doors and windows, a wall can nevertheless provide solitude for the loner or hide the afraid. Sanctuary, escape or prison?
I first thought about walls as records of history when I discovered that the high, thick walls surrounding the Seoul military garrison where we lived were built by the Japanese Army during their occupation of Korea. I could see these walls from our windows and my regular running route on post hugged the high barbed wire topped walls.
My interest in old walls continued when we moved to Europe. Walls from so many historical periods contain stories I tried to read as I walked the old cities.
History is visible on street-facing sides. Within, I imagined the stories that took place behind the walls.
Traveling around the continent, I looked for signs of bricked up doors and plastered over windows—altered façades writing new chapters. I walked along the route of the Berlin Wall, which fell just months before I arrived in Europe in 1990.
Graffiti, street art and wheat-pasted posters and papers shout mixed messages in languages sometimes difficult to decipher as they peel and wear away. Scraped, abraded and abused walls seem to cry about past violence done. Some walls in places like Berlin, Budapest and Sarajevo are still bullet-pocked, holding memories of past horrors. More quietly, vine-covered or moldy walls deteriorate and crumble like neglected old people.
Fascinated by the imagery and rich narratives of religious icons, I collected icons throughout the former East. I gathered them on the walls of an antique cabinet to imitate the glittering, meditative iconostases of Orthodox churches.
My many photos of walls inspire personal interpretations in cloth; and, with digital fabric-printing services, I can now also include, as part of my newest series, more accurate depictions of the walls I have read and listened to in my travels.