Several years ago my brother, the artist Relja Penezic, suggested that we work on a project together. The result was a book, Art for Hotels.
Here is the description:
Art for Hotels is an unusual, beautiful, and haunting book about the profound emotional and cognitive effects of leaving home to look for a new life elsewhere. It is part art book, part collection of short stories, part scholarly argument, and part – Zen meditation.
Over a hundred art reproductions draw us into the complex world of someone travelling from place to place: a deserted road at night, a busy street seen through a bus window, a distant mountain range, a lone cargo ship going about its business, a huge moon that does not brighten a dark sky, a bridge crossing the blue ocean water only to disappear into the edge of the picture without reaching the other shore. This opens up an uncluttered, (deceptively) serene, enticing visual space, luminous and boundless like awareness itself — but with a somber undercurrent. The soothing, contemplative, and yet vaguely unsettling environment conjured up by the artwork is so intriguing that you will want to stay in it as long as possible!
Within this artistic frame we meet the four introspective, broody, often tormented main characters of the four short stories. All are women living away from their original homes, with various degrees of success and adjustment. All are far enough from the moment of leaving so that they can look back on it with fresh eyes. All learn that this particular life choice has had some unforeseen and emotionally wrenching consequences that they now have to contend with. However, Art for Hotels does not stop there. Instead, it offers another plane where a character can make sense of her experiences. This is a place where one does not ask, “How happy/successful/at-home am I in my new environment?” But: “How aware am I?” “How well do I understand my journey?” “Do I dare learn everything my experiences can teach me?” Here one may find a whole new set of wonders, but must accept that the journey has no end.