Country Family Home
Made between 1986 and 2015, Buchanan’s Shack Sculptures are a result of the artist’s close observation and extensive research of ‘shotgun’ houses, where one room is arranged in sequence one behind the other; the rural poor inhabited these houses. They were often constructed for rent near railways or manufacturing centers, but by the late twentieth century tended to be owner-occupied. By engaging with this architectural form, Buchanan considers the economic consequences of the abandonment of this form of housing as a result of the ubiquity of the motorcar that permitted people to move to the suburbs, where there was less pressure on space. In the South, where Buchanan lived and worked, superstitions were attached to this form of building that held that ghosts and spirits could pass straight through them, so doors were deliberately misaligned to deter them. Country Family Home is an excellent example from the Shack Sculptures series that explores the history of these ruined buildings, subjected to a battering by nature and life, and which are somehow kept alive to provide shelter for the disadvantaged. The patchwork nature of the shack suggests a hand-to-mouth existence but also the ingenuity of those who kept these buildings going against all odds. The title has ironic and cynical overtones, referring to country houses normally being considered as secondary residencies of the affluent. The artist’s emphasis on ruins foregrounds the central and pertinent theme of the necessity of survival.