No place like home

Entry into someone else's home is entry into an alien universe, where the smells, the furnishings, the pictures on the wall are uncanny and unfamiliar.

Weathering Time, a multimedia installation about home at the Atlanta Contemporary Art Center, bridges that gap between a familiar idea of home and a strange, unfamiliar one. It is an invitation to occupy, for a moment, another person's home in the fullest sense and to understand the emotional investment that underpins an intimate notion of home.

Atlanta artist Nancy Floyd uses home as a metaphor for body, family, memory and the bittersweet transformation of something solid and sheltering into something debilitated and fragile.

Weathering Time is focused on the plain wooden League City, Texas, house that once sheltered Floyd's family, which is shown via photographs in varying degrees of decay. In a series of three photographs of the living room's demolition, its cheerful curtains with yellow flowers are overtaken by black mold. In the final shot a gaping hole in the wall offers a view of the next door neighbor's house. In Floyd's steady, sensitive hands, this process of ruin is devastating — the rotting floorboards and the collapsed walls become synonymous with a cancer eating away at a loved one. In the most heart-rending image, there is nothing left but a lump of dirt and weeds where the house once stood.

But Floyd has not only represented her family home in images, she has attempted to emotionally recreate it in a replica of that Texas homestead, which viewers can enter. Shoes are removed so viewers' feet can feel the cool smooth floor constructed with 50,000 Popsicle sticks. The effect is transporting, offering a sensation at once comforting and unstable. The possibility of Popsicle sticks supporting one's weight seems tenuous, which is just what Floyd is saying about the notion of "home" — that it is a tenuous construction easily destroyed by time.

A home, in Floyd's poignant, haunting installation is not simply a structure but the imprint of a family, a mark of their existence that becomes especially tragic, in Floyd's case, when that mark is erased.

Weathering Time runs through Jan. 11 at the Atlanta Contemporary Art Center, 535 Means St. Tues.-Sat. 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Floyd will give a lecture Dec. 4 at 7 p.m. 404-688-1970. www.thecontemporary.org.??