If you’ve ever felt intense nostalgia after revisiting an old childhood home, or dread upon entering a building that resembles your loathed middle school, you’ve experienced architecture’s power to shape memory. In several painting series, Brooklyn-based artist Ben Boothby explores both memories of architecture and the architecture of memory, visually representing how it's built and structured in our minds.
"When they see the paintings, lots of people ask if I have a background in architecture, because that’s the only way they can make sense of the strong diagonals and verticals," Boothby tells Co.Design. "But it actually comes from my process of taking a very fuzzy memory and trying to turn it into some kind of visual logic." After being trained quite formally in realism and Renaissance-derived academic painting, Boothby now prefers to paint abstractly, drawing on distinctive places from his childhood—the ferry he took each summer to his grandparents’ Fire Island beach house; the shed behind his mother’s house; the views from his bedroom window.
After choosing an evocative space, he draws loose architectural renderings based on how it appears in his mind’s eye. He then turns these drawing into silkscreens, layering on geometric chunks of color, and adds accents of splattered paint. "The style melds the two sides of my artistic personality—one is very meticulous, the other likes throwing paint around," Boothby says. The process of creating these kaleidoscopic, dreamlike compositions mimics the way time warps and abstracts our mental images of a space.
The titles of the series—"Rope Burns and Heinekens," "Seagull Poop and Rotten Seaweed," "Wagon Rust and Coppertone"—refer to the smells that characterized these architectural spaces, smells now charged with nostalgia for the artist. "Architecture shapes our strongest memories," he says. "The strength of a place doesn’t change, even while all these fleeting things happen inside it."