Fire in Jersey City inspires art project

The News Leader

January 14, 2010 3:44:38 PM PST
After a man in Jersey City lost his house to a fire, he got to work and transformed his home into a piece of art. And now, everyone can enjoy it.

Kendall Messick is an artist. Usually, his projects take several years to complete, and they often involve a number of components. He took a day of destruction and turned it into a thing worth preserving.

"I knew it was such an emotional event, and I knew if I didn't record it with my camera, I'd later regret it," Messick said.

When Messick's home went up in flames, he reached for his camera and started documenting the aftermath.

The home was in complete ruins. His first images were from a single roll of black and white film. But in the days ahead, he photographed objects in the rubble and close ups of the scars left behind.

And now, four years after that fire, Messick's Jersey City home looks new again. And for a short time, his home is housing an exhibit called Impermanence. It's comprised of 42 photographs and charred objects, and the home is also part of the exhibition.

"Given the nature of this project and the way it evolved, it made sense that this could be the only place it could debut," Messick said.

And it also made sense for Messick to leave some of the damage exposed.

There is soot here, charred wood there, and a frame around a section of wall still blacked by ash.

So amidst the polished and new, the damage remains.

From the destruction came a body of work. A short film and photos selling for thousands of dollars. And yes, they are selling. Messick's home is open to the public on the weekends for all to see.

"I aspire to show work that inspires an emotion from the viewer," he said. "And I hope this work actually does that."

Impermanence is open to the public on weekends and by appointment during the week. It will eventually go on the road, while the actual home in New Jersey will stay put.

For more information, visit or call 877-290-5820. The home is located at 1129 Summit Avenue in Jersey City.