The squat wooden structure looks like it's part tree house, fort, RV and boat. It sits on wheels in a secret lot near Copper. Doors on either side lead to a small open space. On one end, a crude counter holds a hot plate and makeshift sink. A loft is visible overhead.
The rest of the room is bare, save for a wooden swing hanging from the ceiling. Outside, a lamppost with a basketball hoop attached to it gives the whole affair a homey feel.
The address on the side of the post reads “1509,” but Bethany Delahunt admits it's made up. Like everything else on the secret lot, it's the product of her imagination.
Delahunt's background is in sculpture, not in construction, carpentry or architecture. Yet somehow she taught herself how to build a house. For months, Delahunt scavenged Craigslist for supplies. She hunted for secondhand building materials from ReStore and collected wood from salvage yards like Coronado Wrecking and Salvage. Then she spent hours pulling nails from the lumber to make it usable.
But by relying on the know-how of friends with experience, along with her own research and intuition, she succeeded. The house is (almost) done and ready for her to move into. On Friday, Nov. 9, she flung wide the doors for an art opening and housewarming party. Delahunt says openings can be awkward affairs, and she often wants to leave as soon as possible. But at this one, "people were, like, hanging out for a really long time,” she marvels, proudly, “because it was like a house party.”
“I have a kid’s agenda,”
Insulation, the next component to be installed, will make it a lot warmer. A wood-burning stove and solar water heater are other considerations Delahunt has in mind to make the space more autonomous. “I'm on the grid for now,” says Delahunt, “using extension cords.”
The undertaking, she explains, was meant to afford her the freedom, independence and mobility she needs to pursue a full-time career as an artist. “When I started the project, it was utterly coming from a totally practical, logistical standpoint,” she says. This captivating mix of the fanciful and the functional is an overarching theme in the way Delahunt approaches her work. For the Alibi's first art box competition, she transformed a distribution cube into a working telephone booth. This year, she built a functional lookout tower as part of an exhibition about the border.
“That’s sort of what art is for me---making things that seem impossible, possible.”
She's not the only one who sees the practical applications of her art. Delahunt has already been invited to a residency in Truth or Consequences, making more housing spaces modeled after her design. The houses would serve as semi-permanent, semi-mobile homes and studios for other artists in residency there, making her work not only art but a platform for creating more.
“I'm not trying to make any statements,” says Delahunt. “I'm just getting by, just practical. You know—what can you do with nothing?” In a society that focuses so much on material stuff, it's a refreshing point of view. “There is an element of me wanting to be able to show people that anything's possible,” she admits. “That's sort of what art is for me—making things that seem impossible, possible.”