One boy dreams of owning a house that doubles as a truck. Another wants a house with a skate ramp coming out his window.

Against these childish dreams sit the harsh realities of home: An old couple loses theirs to foreclosure. A little girl runs away from one. A homeless person dreams of living in one.

“Home is a word that I have imbued with meaning, expectation, fulfillment and bereavement,” said Jennifer Hardacker, a filmmaker and video-production professor at Pacific University.

Homes can be strongholds of wealth, materialism and isolation, she said. They can also instill nostalgia, yearning and comfort.

“For me, the concept of home is a charged one, and it is a notion that has preoccupied much of my creative work,” said Hardacker, whose “Meaning of Home” film installation is on display at the university’s Cawein Gallery through Friday, April 19.

Living in an Indiana rust-belt town, Hardacker lost her mother at age 15. Around the same time, she watched David Lynch’s “Blue Velvet” and decided she wanted to be a filmmaker.

The opening shot where the viewer is led down the orifice of a moldy, severed, ant-riddled ear convinced her of the possibilities of cinema, Hardacker said. “But also, I realized that as much as I love words, I’m more interested in visual storytelling.”

Since she left home 26 years ago, Hardacker has lived in 18 different homes in two countries and five states — in search, she said, of a place of stability, nurture and retreat.

Meanwhile, she has created several short, experimental films for festivals across America and Canada, such as, “Where you are is not where you are going.”

Her inspiration for “Meaning of Home” was a 2010 Cawein Gallery show by Pacific art professor Kaia Sand depicting the housing crisis.

Hardacker’s exhibit features a simple, cardboard, four-room house with a door, four windows and short films playing in each room.

“The house is the story and the films inside are the characters,” she said.

The films — each about two and a half minutes long — portray Hardacker’s conflicting ideas about home: a melancholy person suffering isolation; news footage of the housing crisis and homelessness; beautiful images of the Oregon landscape; and a time-lapse of Hardacker’s own “modern” family in what is often the heartbeat of a home: its kitchen.

There, Hardacker’s blended family members (including the two imaginative boys at the top of this story) come and go in different combinations—sometimes including her stepsons’ other parents.

Hardacker made the exhibit interactive to help viewers “consider all meanings of home in their lives.”

Behind the cardboard house is a large screen where personal thoughts about home appear after visitors type them on a nearby computer.

The quotes started out very positive, Hardacker said, with people projecting words like “family,” “love,” “safety” and “security.”

But darker entries crept in, like the one from a viewer who had suffered through the slow and painful death of her mother.

“There’s a certain amount of things that are beyond our control when we think about home,” Hardacker said.

Now that she has a real home, Hardacker has discovered that the material comforts she long dreamed of are “less important to me now, knowing that I have the support of a family.”

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