Home Is Where the Art Is

title card for Home is Where the Heart Is Wxhibit

Artists: Nick Peña, Ryan Steed, & Nancy Cheairs

Curated by Julia Conway

Some artists benefit from intentional solitude created within a studio or enclosed space far removed from society where creativity can be conceived. However, how does one find inspiration in a global pandemic, under the forced quarantine standards we are in? How does an artist find creativity under the pressure of an international crisis? Home is Where the Art Is explores the various ways in which the home has been transformed during this strange period of isolation. Under the intense strains of solitude many of us are feeling emotions of alienation or estrangement. By displaying images of the home motif this exhibition aims to document a period of isolation and the emotions that coexist that may resonate with viewers in unmatched ways. As a viewer, think about what emotions you experience viewing these pieces with a new outlook on the home during the confusing and quarantine period.

This exhibition looks at works created by three Memphis based artists, Nancy Cheairs, Nick Peña, and Ryan Steed. Selected works cover themes of isolation, solitude, and loneliness through depictions of dwellings in various mediums. We are more connected than we think during this strange time and our feelings of loneliness are entirely valid. Let us consider art’s ability to unite us through the common emotions we experience during this time of intense confinement through the concentration on the home motif.

Nick Peña is a Memphis based artist and currently an associate professor of art in the Visual Art Department at Christian Brothers University. Originally from Illinois, Peña received his BFA from Southern Illinois University, Carbondale. He then went on to receive his MFA from the University of Missouri, Columbia. His work focuses mainly on American landscape contrasted with architectural scenes. His work has been shown throughout Memphis and all over the country.

Ryan Steed is a Memphis based photographer whose work focuses on documentary photography. He received both his BFA and MFA from Memphis College of Art with a focus on photography. Steed now teaches photography courses at Memphis College of Art. His photography has been featured in Memphis and across the southeast region.

Nancy Cheairs is a painter native to the city of Memphis. She received her bachelor’s degree in fine art from Memphis College of Art. She also holds a master’s degree in Fine Art from The University of Memphis. She is the founder of Flicker Street Studio. She has shown her work in solo and group exhibitions across the nation.

painting of a house
Artist: Nick Peña
From Sea to Shining Sea
30’’ diameter
Watercolor, Acrylic, Sintra mat

From Sea to Shining Sea

Being confined to one space for an extended amount of time can be disheartening and frustrating. The house appears empty in this piece, nearly overcome by the encroaching linear design. All over the world we are all experiencing loss of hope and embracing feelings of intense anguish. From Sea to Shining Sea presents an image of hope and validation of our shared fears. We must understand we are indeed connected through these shared emotions from one coast to the other.

photo of a house covered in greenery
Artist: Ryan Steed

It Was Home

For many, home is synonymous with comfort and joy. The increased time we have been forced to spend in our homes has transformed the home into a place of uneasiness. It Was Home presents an image symbolizing the authority of our emotions to overpower our safe space. What once was a place of enjoyment is disturbed by the imminent power of the world leaving a trace of eeriness existing in the place.

an abstract painting of a house
Artist: Nancy Cheairs
24’’ x 26’’
Oil on canvas


A daunting sense of the unknown is evoked in this image of the home. Cheairs creates simplistic geometric shapes in cool blue tones that are contrasted with a bold pop of yellow in Night. What lies beyond? This question is more relevant now than ever. The unfamiliar is anxiety inducing but omnipresent in the state of our world right now. We must live a day at a time.

a photo of a shack
Artist: Ryan Steed

Let a Little Sky In

If there is one thing we can take away from this time of instability and fear it is resilience. Let a Little Sky In depicts an image of resilience and power. Although abandoned, the framework of the house featured still stands strong. Like this house, we must offer optimism and courage withstanding the turmoil of our lives right now.  

abstract painting of a house
Artist: Nick Peña
24’’ Diameter
Watercolor, acrylic, sintra mat

Rise and Fall

There is no denying the constant state of flux our mindsets are in right now. Some might describe their mental state are continuously rising and falling. Peña creates a stagnant image of a home that is intersected with falling fluid shapes that restrict the completion of the home image. The variation of these shapes with the stark contrast of the white background present an isolated image of the home in Rise and Fall. The incompletion of the home and the crumbling shapes parallel our continual emotions of despair.

painting of a house in block forms
Artist: Nancy Cheairs
40’’ x 72’’
Oil on canvas

Arcadia II

The blissful landscape and home image in Arcadia II evoke life and tranquility. However, the peacefulness of the scene is contrasted with dark color tones that create a sense of apprehension. The lack of human figures or symbols of life heighten the emotions of loneliness and isolation. Arcadia II provokes emotions that are undeniably present within each of our lives at the right now. Let us find comfort in our shared sentiments.

a photo of a red house in a field
Artist: Ryan Steed

There's a Red House Over Yonder

There are several signs that suggest life in this image. The electricity wire that connects to the house, the steps leading up to the porch and the wire chair on the porch all invite a guest to appreciate and acknowledge this place. Although we are physically isolated during this time we are not psychologically alone. There’s A Red House Over Yonder reminds us that we are not tangibly together, but we must still come together in spirit

a round watercolor of a house and abstract images
Artist: Nick Peña
24’’ diameter

Over the Rainbow, Ablaze

The image of the secure home and mountain landscape is contrasted with intense linear color blocks that fall into the cliff below in Over the Rainbow, Ablaze. It is almost as if the house will fall into the abyss at any moment. A similar contrast between the stability of our homes and the instability of our world is comparable here. During isolation emotions of hopelessness and loneliness make many of us feel as if we also might crumble into the abyss. Over the Rainbow, Ablaze forces us as the viewer to recognize the small sense of comfort we find in our homes while also understanding the uncertainty of the world right now.

a landscape with large blocks of color
Artist: Nancy Cheairs
Oil on Canvas

Fun House

Possibly the most optimistic piece in this exhibition is Fun House. The bright geometric shapes create an affirmative depiction of the home. This piece contrasts the realities present within many of the other pieces in order to express the importance of hopefulness in this period of bewilderment. How can we make the most out of an unfortunate situation? Fun House offers a cheery and lively portrayal of the place many of us resent, the home.