Date of Award


Level of Access

Campus-Only Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Fine Arts (MFA)




Deborah Wing-Sproul

Second Committee Member

Owen F. Smith

Third Committee Member

Michael Grillo


“To be rooted,” wrote Simone Weil, “is perhaps the most important and least recognized need of the human soul. A human being has roots by virtue of his real, active and natural participation in the life of a community” (Weil 85).

This thesis examines the concepts of the meaning of home, not only to our personal center of reference, but also with respect to family, community and the sociopolitical climate in which we live. The notion of home has changed drastically in recent years from one of safety and security, where we go to, either physically (house, room land) or emotionally (memory, fantasy) to insulate ourselves from vulnerability and find comfort. The concept of home is now seen through the lens of a culture defined by a capitalist system. This system has created fragmentation and displacement of lives, through issues such as the recent foreclosure/housing crisis, unemployment and the outsourcing of labor. The empty houses and vacant storefronts across the nation are the remains, the detritus left by this dispossession.

Through research, documentation and the implementation of art-based production both in a gallery and interventionist settings, I have investigated the ways in which traditional theories of home are being challenged by the socio-political environment around us. This investigation began by using traditional object-making forms of art as a way to expose cracks in the broken capitalist-based housing system, but through grounding in philosophical and sociological theories, and current arts-based practices my work has taken a “social turn” toward activist practice using a socially engaged participatory model, which does more than reveal issues but works to create transformation. This move toward a social practice has raised the following questions: Can art intervene in social relations? What are the implications of involving art and its audiences in an ethical problem? And how do such practices relate to art’s social institutions? This thesis work examines a turn towards participatory and collaborative art forms and the questions that such practices raise.