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Haus of Luna ‘a trip to wonderland’ in Vancouver

Art installation house offers seven rooms, journey of self-discovery

By , Columbian staff writer
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A melting clock sits on a houndstooth-patterned wall at The Haus of Luna art installation Vancouver.
A melting clock sits on a houndstooth-patterned wall at The Haus of Luna art installation Vancouver. (Taylor Balkom/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

Walk in the door and you’re face to face with “wow.” Literally. The neon word glows beside the sly eyes of Mona Lisa, who’s grinning at your surprise from a poster on the wall.

After that, “Wow!” might just keep coming out of your own mouth as you make the rounds of seven strange rooms in a house that feels like it’s been surrealistically haunted for Halloween and beyond.

Open for 30-minute visits on most evenings through mid-December, The Haus of Luna is the artistic transformation of Sol Cejas’ normal little house, just west of Clark College, into what she’s subtitled “A Trip to Wonderland.” Heads sprout from the ceiling, CDs pop from the toaster, polka dots infect the bathroom and a spiky coronavirus the size of a soccer ball hangs out in a disco-mirrored room.

The virus is what gave birth to this journey through Cejas’ house, she said. Visitors will notice lots of mirrors, emphasizing that the past 18 months have been a time of isolation and self-reflection for many. But visitors also have opportunities to play and laugh at all the colorful invention.

“Grab your shadow,” Cejas said in a sprayed-white room where you can make colorful shadows by fooling around with toys in front of a light projector. “In life we fear shadows, but this is a way to make them more fun.”

IF YOU GO

What: The Haus of Luna: A Trip to Wonderland

When: Most evenings, now through Dec. 13. Times vary, but 30-minute visiting periods generally begin at 6:30 p.m. and end at 8 p.m.

Where: Address provided to ticket holders; all visitors must have mask and proof of vaccination. Temperatures checked at the door.

Price: $15

Information: www.solcejas.com

Installation art

Cejas grew up in Buenos Aires, Argentina. When she was a kid, she said, her parents saw her artistic passion as a pleasant distraction, nothing more.

“Art wasn’t fostered where I grew up. It was, ‘That’s cute. What a nice hobby,’ ” she said.

Cejas pursued the path she felt she was supposed to by studying accounting in college, but it never felt right.

“Something was missing,” Cejas recalled. She added with a laugh, “I was not fit for accounting.”

Cejas came to Vancouver with her now-ex-husband in 2006, and bought the little house near Clark College in 2012, she said. She has since moved elsewhere, but kept this property as a rental.

“I put a lot of energy into it and I have so many good memories of working on the house,” Cejas said, adding that she rediscovered and renewed her artistic self in the process. Eventually Cejas enrolled in art and design classes at Clark.

“Clark gave me the foundation,” she said. “It is a great school.”

After a couple of years there, she transferred to Portland State University and obtained a degree in graphic design in spring 2020, just as the pandemic was revving up. Her last PSU class was online only, she said.

Since then, Cejas has worked in design and branding for businesses including salons, spas and magazines, as well as pursuing her own painting projects. But, she said, there’s a special place in her heart for what’s called installation art — that is, large-scale, three-dimensional art that’s intended to transform a place.

Installation art is the opposite of an image inside a frame. It tends to be interactive and immersive, beckoning visitors to explore and experience with all their senses. Most top 10 lists of great art installations include Dale Chihuly’s Garden and Glass in Seattle. The Grant Street Pier and the Vancouver Land Bridge are local examples of permanent installation art.

“Space has always influenced me so much,” Cejas said. “It influences how all people feel, more than they realize. Your energy and mood can change, depending on the space, in very big ways — but also in small ways you don’t consciously notice.”

Free association

Cejas dreamed up an installation art project for her little house just as the coronavirus pandemic was hitting hard in early 2020, so the idea had to wait. This year, Cejas spent $2,000 and about five months shopping for colored lights, spray paint (as hard to find these days as toilet paper, she said) and strange decorations like the many heroic busts that seem to meet your gaze wherever you go inside the Haus.

“I used intentionally jarring and surprising imagery as a way to speak directly to the subconscious,” Cejas writes in an online artist’s statement. “Bright neon colors, shiny surfaces, and varied textures were implemented to stimulate and enhance the senses, as well as to play tricks on the mind with unexpected and illogical juxtapositions.”

You can take a guided tour with the artist, who enjoys describing how the rooms line up with artistic themes as well as her own life story. For example, you’d never know unless she told you that the raw, cavelike “Gold Room” where the tour begins is where Cejas first began envisioning her own shiny artistic future.

Next is the kitchen, that classic too-small family gathering place, overstuffed with joy and energy: pink-and-black checkerboard on the floor, turntables on the stovetop, disco balls on the counter.

“I’m a child of the ’80s,” said Cejas, pointing out the rotary wall phone.

While the experience may get serious if you try, just plain fun is clearly the heart of the Haus of Luna. Look no further than the polka-dotted bathroom. Cejas applied every single dot by hand, she said.

“A bathroom is not seen as so glamorous, so I wanted to make it very fun,” she said. “Now it’s more like being inside a comic strip.”

But Cejas need not narrate your experience, she said. Visitors who want to find their own meanings and private insights are welcome to explore the Haus of Luna on their own, she said.

“You can see different versions of yourself in different ways,” she said. “It’s a journey of self-discovery and free association.”

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