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  • Maureen Bachmann

Truth Windows

Kattail Acres

Thirteen years ago my sister and her husband built a house. Apart from its pumpkin-orange exterior and solar panels mounted to the roof it looks pretty much like any other house in their rural subdivision. But once inside you start to get a sense that you're somewhere special as you notice the 18" wide window sills, soft corners, and plastered walls. But it isn't until you step into their library that you realize why this place is so special. Inserted into the room's west wall is a window. But it doesn't look out onto a gorgeous prairie landscape - instead it opens to reveal that the walls are made not from wood or stone or brick, but from straw bales.

Truth window in the library

In the unique world of straw bale houses this is known as a truth window. When a building is made out of something so extraordinary, it's hard to convince people of the reality unless they can see it for themselves. So it's tradition to include a truth window somewhere in a straw bale house.

Now I don't build houses but sometimes my art leaves people perplexed as to what it's actually made of. So that's why I often do my own version of a truth window. Besides reusing canvases and other conventional surfaces for the base of my art I love to reuse items such as baking tins or handsaws. Rather than finishing off the back of such pieces I leave them be in order to reveal the truth about their origins. Because time and time again, as I stand back at an art show and watch people try to work out what they're seeing, they'll pick up an item and say "Is this a real..." and look at the back. And once they're reassured that it's the real deal, they're free to enjoy my art for its authenticity. I sometimes worry that it doesn't look "professional" but at least it's the truth.

An unfinished back - my version of a truth window

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