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.

Expanding on the Theme of Over Development

The Fallen
The Fallen, 2019, Mixed Media Artist Book, Unique, 7.25″ x 17″ Open,

 

The Fallen Back View
The Fallen, 2019, Mixed Media Artist Book, Unique, 7.25″ x 17″ Back View Open,
The Fallen Closed 300
The Fallen, 2019, Mixed Media Artist Book, Unique, 7.25″ x 5.5″ X 1″ Closed

Awhile back I posted digital images I worked over along with some thoughts on over development.   Since then, I have decided to expand on the theme and construct an actual physical piece.  The Fallen pays tribute to all creatures that are victims of over development but I continued to use the image of the toad.  I choose a triple panel structure that is reminiscent of alter pieces and deliberately used a house shape as the panel format.  I repeated the use of the red outline of the toads’ bodies as I did with the digital images. If you did not see the original post with the digitally reworked images, you can see that here .

Over Development

Walking around my neighborhood last summer, I regularly noticed many strangely flattened shapes along the road.  Upon closer inspection, these shapes turned out to be toads that were run over by cars.  One day, while standing in one spot, I counted four toads that had been run over within a small radius of where I stood.

When I describe my “neighborhood”, it is important to know that I do not live along a highway or even a regular street but an apartment complex.  My apartment complex, and the surrounding four shopping centers and medical complex, were not here as little as ten years ago.  Behind my apartments are a creek and greenway where it is typical to see many birds, groundhogs, deer, raccoons, and (very recently) an otter.  Not very long ago, where I live was a very rural area that has turned into a massive suburban sprawl.

I found myself needing to record the demise of these creatures.  Art is not always a comfortable, beautiful subject. It is also meant to shake people up a bit.  Though I photographed many toads, I decided that less is more so I am presenting just two images in tribute to these fine creatures we have displaced.

toad 1
Victim 1
toad 1b
Victim 2