New Work: Suburban Sprawl (the McMansions)

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Suburban Sprawl, 2019, Artist Book, Hand Embossed

Before I get into why I made this piece I will give my definition of a McMansion.  A McMansion is an excessively large home on a lot that is way too small and contains an over abundance of architectural features that often compete with one another.  I do not know anyone who lives in this type of housing but there seems to be a great deal of it being built in “up and coming” areas; therefore, I am bound to meet someone sooner or later who lives in one and piss them off if they ever read this.

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Suburban Sprawl, detail

Though I have long been aware of the McMansion (see this early post), it was not until I lived in a suburban area where there is a serious shortage of affordable housing and I could witness first hand the destruction of important habitat, that the McMansion really made a serious impact on my thinking.  So the McMansion became a scapegoat as my way of raising concern on the issues of over development and the shortage of affordable housing.

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McMansion sketches

I choose the format and the medium very deliberately.  First and foremost is the house shape, something I use often in my work. But the look of the house could not be the standard few windows and door that I often depict. The features had to be exaggerated so I made several sketches based on things I had seen.  Then there was the number of houses, which I decided to be 25 for no reason except it seems like enough to create the “sprawling” I felt was necessary to convey the loss of land (and I knew I could reasonably make 25 houses without pulling my hair out).  I connected the houses to emphasize the lack of a suitable plot of land for such a large house.

 

Lastly, I choose to use blind embossing to emphasize the absence of any personal

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Blind embossing plate

ornamentation, interesting garden or yard features. Ironically, blind embossing is often a medium I equate with elegance and simplicity but it seems to work more in this case within the context of banality.   A blind embossing is made with a cardboard plate. Paper is places on top of the plate and hand scored along the relief shapes.   It is an underused medium and I do intend to write up a bit more about the medium itself in the very near future.

So I “feature”, or more accurately poke fun at, the McMansion as  my newest piece relating to home, housing, and community.

Artwork in Progress

All the houses in progress
Yet to be Names Work in Progress

Early in the winter of 2018, I set out to make 60 small houses to fit in a particular box.  I did not know what the end product would be like but I set a goal to finish them before April of this year and here they are.  Now they are not “complete, complete” yet, it is still a work in progress, meaning, the houses still have to be strung together and I have not yet decided whether that will be a more vertical format or a more horizontal format. And this is a poor photograph to top it all off.  (John if you are reading this, I will eventually get that camera!)  In any case, I had decided originally that the piece would be called suburban sprawl but the more I worked on it, the more they reminded me of the urban row homes I lived in most of my life so felt that the use of the word suburban seemed wrong.  I am still going to make a piece called suburban sprawl but it will be different from this.   I plan to complete this piece very soon and will post the final project then. You can read the original post related to this entry here. 

 

What is Home to Nikki Hansen

 

Accordion House 2

Accordion House 1
Nikki Hansen ~ Home

Nikki Hansen was born in Elmer, NJ (when dinosaurs roamed the earth, or at least before the tiny local hospital splurged on air conditioning).  She currently lives in Glassboro, NJ.

For me, “home” isn’t necessarily anchored in a single dwelling but is more the mental embodiment of comfort, beauty, joy, safety, memory, stimulation and entertainment that makes one feel fulfilled and in tune with one’s place in time and space.  A personal universe, in a nutshell, that is never left behind or lost because it travels with you in your head and can be accessed at all times and all surroundings.

In another universe there are an infinite number of rooms to contain all the beautiful, wonderful, curious, fascinating objects, creatures and emotional stimuli  that I find make life worth living but these few are a start.

When Nikki is not at home, she spends most of her non-working hours cruising the tri-state area (NJ, PA, and Delaware) playing & singing with various music groups including two fantastic bands– Just Roses and Smoke and Mirrors. She spent most of her working career as a props person for live theatre and firmly believe that books, music in particular, the Arts in general and beasties are what makes life worth living.

*A note about Nikki’s house.  In error, I sent Nikki three house cut outs and she employed all three. Being a props person for the theater, this made perfect sense to me that she designed a set!

What is Home to Diane Podolsky

House sm format
Diane Podolsky ~ Home

Diane was born in Philadelphia, PA and currently resides in North Carolina.

Home for me is a connection to my physical surroundings which not only encompasses visual stimuli but smells, sounds, etc. But since we are dealing with images for this project, I will talk about visual stimuli. My favorite story about how sensory stimuli live deep in our subconscious was when a student asked me what all those “funny cross things” were in my artwork. The student was not familiar with TV antennae. From riding the El (elevated train) on a daily basis with a rooftop view of the world, these shapes etched themselves deep in my subconscious and made regular appearances in my artwork along with street lights, hanging laundry, church steeples, fire escapes and row houses.  Then my landscape changed.  My new landscape is a strange mix of rural, suburban, and small towns. The air and the light in the sky are different.  My new landscape has left its mark on me enough to say it is familiar enough to feel somewhat comfortable and will be added to the images my subconscious has stock piled. So my house that I completed shows the landscape I have known most of my life faded out in the background and replaced by the new.

Diane is the curator of the Cookie Cutter House Project, has enjoyed a long and varied career in the visual arts, and currently works on a vegetable farm in North Carolina.  She plans to start printing again in the near future.

What is Home to Jane B. Miluski

Jane Milusky finished piece
Jane Miluski ~ Home

 

Jane B. Miluski was born in Philadelphia, PA and currently resides in Wallingford, PA

Home for me is a a big pot of soup and a fine fat cat.  I live in the same house that my family moved into in July, 1937 when I was nine months old. I have been fortunate to teach plein air workshops throughout the world but I always look forward to coming home to a big pot of soup and a fine fat cat. 

What is Home to Amy Danford

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Amy Danford ~ Home

Amy Danford was born in Cleveland, Ohio and currently resides in Havertown, Pennsylvania

When I think of the word “home”, I am unable to pinpoint one location or thing. Home has been the Midwest, New York City, New Jersey, and now Pennsylvania.  However, home doesn’t necessarily mean a brick and mortar building to me.  It’s both physical and emotional – the world I live in, the cities I’ve lived, my body, community, and so much more.  Home has sometimes meant living amongst millions of people or living quietly and on my own.  At times, it has felt chaotic, confusing or unknown.  Mostly, home has helped me understand my place in this world, where I explore and feel inspired, and where I rest my head at night.  Home is being at peace, which leaves me feeling whole.    

 About Amy: I took my first art class at the Toledo Museum of Art in 1980.  I was five years old and remember thinking what a wonderful, safe place the museum was.  I think I knew then I would someday work in museums.  For the past 18 years, I have worked as an art therapist and museum educator in New York City, Cincinnati and now Philadelphia…dabbling in my own art whenever possible.  I’m inspired every day by my students, my husband and two boys (ages 11 and 7), and the world around me.