His house is his canvas, visionary artist says

Dream Home

From glass mosaic floor to rafters studded with tiny mirrors, rowhouse reflects its owner

Real Estate

November 17, 2006|By Marie Gullard | Marie Gullard,Special to The Sun

Ask Loring Cornish about his house and he will say it is for and about his art. He will call his circa 1920 brick rowhouse in Southwest Baltimore a "church" where, he says, "I can make art and worship God at my leisure."

His is a dream house as unique as the visions at the root of all his works.

Cornish, 34, considers himself a visionary artist - a "self taught" or "outsider" artist amid the trained variety.

Although he grew up in Baltimore - his parents live just down the street - he lived elsewhere, mainly in California, for many years. Three years ago, he returned to Baltimore, wanting to be closer to his parents, and, as luck would have it, rented a house in the same block as theirs.

This past June, he was given the option to buy the property and jumped at the chance, spending $50,000 for the 2,100-square-foot home. The previous owner, according to Cornish, had fixed the place up nicely, painting all the walls white and redoing the floors and the kitchen.

"[The former owner] did everything for me," he said, "so I could turn around and undo it all."

The "undoing" consisted mainly of tearing down interior walls of Sheetrock and ripping out the ceilings to the rafters. While once there were four bedrooms and a bath on the second level, the entire 14-by-50-foot second-floor space is now one open area. Here, as on the first floor, the walls are covered with artwork, hanging gallery-style.

Cornish's art starts on the house's exterior, where a one-story high, wood-on-wood sculpture rests against the front windows, proclaiming in letters placed mosaic-style, "Jesus" and "Hope."

All things become his canvas, he says. That includes items he can collect, such as old doors and window frames, and parts of the house - the ceiling beams, floors and staircase are vehicles for his expression. Furniture in the house is limited, as he would "rather look at things more important than pieces of furniture."

Just inside the front door, an interior wall defines the hall which opens onto a living room with lime green walls. Several bas-relief-type pieces of sculpture are hung on three walls overlooking a blue canvas love seat, coffee table and two beige faux leather occasional chairs.

Working with shards of colored glass and bits of broken mirror, Cornish has created his heaven and Earth. The floor is a loose mosaic of glass inlaid in cement, while the exposed ceiling rafters are "paved" with the mirror bits to create what Cornish calls "my endless sky." Supporting horizontal beams and vertical columns are also treated to glass mosaic, but here, he has formed words with the stones and glass. Meant to be inspirational, the glimmering letters spell out words such as "determined," "persuaded," "committed," and "persistent."

The dining room, with walls of exposed brick, serves as gallery space for several large pieces, including one 8-by-3 1/2 -foot work called "Baltimore Summer." Here Cornish has placed various electric and industrial objects onto a silver painted background. A motorized fan whirrs amid metal grids.

A kitchen is located beyond the dining room, traditional only in the sense that it has a refrigerator. Off limits to all but Cornish, the area serves as his studio.

The second level is completely open and accessed from the dining room by a staircase painted bright silver.

"I took a hammer and knocked everything out of here in 2 1/2 days," Cornish said, referring to the absence of interior walls.

A claw-foot bathtub, toilet and sink sit dead center on the floor. The front section is furnished with a microfiber sofa and easy chair. The rear area serves as a small office.

"My house is for my art," Cornish reiterates, hoping soon to have people walk through his two-story gallery. Many days he keeps the front door open, inviting the curious to experience his work.

Several of his signature wood and heavily resin-coated pieces have original verses affixed below them. One in particular appears to state Cornish's philosophy about art, home and life, reading: "The serenity that I find in my home prepares me for whatever comes my way."

Have you found your dream home? Tell us about it. Write to Dream Home, Real Estate Editor, The Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore 21278, or e-mail us at real.estate@baltsun.com.

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