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.
This post is dedicated to my dear friend “Chief” Nancy
Several years ago, I embarked on a project called “Silent Echoes”. It involved noticing how people used the space around the outside of their homes, and also refuted the common belief that every row house is exactly the same. Below is the text that was written for the project and the slide show underneath shows pairings of different photographs. Oddly, I just realized this project was completed 20 years ago and I feel it is still relevant and relates to ideas presented in the Cookie Cutter House Project.
If you were around in the 1970s, you probably had the experience of going to a restaurant and, after your salad or whatever was placed before you, a waiter came over with a giant pepper mill offering you fresh ground pepper. And, no doubt, you were so intrigued by this odd offer that you accepted having no idea of the results.
Now you are probably wondering “What does this have to do with housing”. Well, everything, but give me a moment to explain. I am one of the zillions of people who have replaced my good old standard pepper shaker with a pepper mill. I have probably owned my current pepper mill for about 7 years. It has only recently occurred to me how often I run out of pepper corns and how every time I go to buy them I
complain to myself about the price. At the market today, I have once again found myself in that situation and opted for a can of good old fashioned ground black pepper. Is there a difference in taste? Well, probably to the most discerning palate, which I do not have. I put pepper on my food purely for the aesthetics. The little black specs somehow makes whatever I am eating look more appealing. But more importantly is this question: at what point did freshly ground pepper from a mill become the norm in our kitchens?Read More »
When going through an old sketch book, I came across some notes from March of 2000. The notes basically talk about an experience I had in a printmaking studio on one day when, strangely, nobody else was using the press. I had made two small etching plates of these goofy looking houses. The reason I made the goofy looking houses was because this is around the time that McMansions were being built at a record pace. These houses always looked so strange to me because they were over sized homes on way too small lots. Nothing like the big beautiful stately mansions you see with lovely grounds and mature trees that can be seen on the Philadelphia Main Line and other areas of the country.
So with the press all to myself, I embarked on a frantic pace of inking and printing these etching plates on pieces of very tiny paper. The irony of this mad printing session was how I was banging out these etchings as quickly as developers seemed to be building them and the very small pieces of paper sort of mimicked the very small lots on which these houses were being built. I no longer have the plates, or any of the prints that came from this session as they were very poor quality (and I also have to wonder about the quality of those homes!)
Anyway, the other part of this story is how suburbs have become more than just bedroom communities. As more people moved out of the city, companies soon followed as well as recreational activities and shopping. It seems that the suburbs became more crowded than the cities. The above sketch was my interpretation of where the suburbs were headed.
The Cookie Cutter House Project is based on a number of things. Houses and buildings appeared in my former work because I lived in an old, large city and became part of my subconscious. Recently, I moved to a totally new environment comprised of a mix of rural and suburban landscape. Overdevelopment and a lack of housing for the booming population are major concerns. In addition, when I did move, I left the only place I ever knew as “home” and I believe this project is helping me address and possibly redefine my thoughts on home and community. Read More »
Some where in the early 2000s, my imagery and the associated symbols in my work took a turn away from buildings and houses. When they did show up, they tended to be less of the main point and more part of an entire message. Around this time I became interested in book arts and installations. Installation art, which is what the Cookie Cutter Project will be, is an interesting art form and something you can read about here. Though the artwork is still a mixture of media, installation and book arts, by their nature, are three dimensional.
The first piece on this post, Tenement, can be called a sculpture, or three dimensional print, or a book depending on your definition of such work. It is made from three small boxes covered with etchings I made of (what else?) buildings! On the very top of this piece, a paper birds nest sits and is embellished by another ubiquitous personal symbol in my work, a TV antennae.
My work process started to include a variety of papers, many of which I made or altered by painting or printmaking techniques. I have tried a number of different surfaces but paper remains my favorite to this day. The satisfaction of making paper and altering the surfaces of manufactured paper resulted in my including other materials in my work such as stitching and wire. The house and building imagery increased and also seemed to go from grand buildings (as in the cut paper work in my last post) to singular structures and small groups of less grand buildings. Other samples of this work are shown in this post.
Houses and buildings have long been represented in my artwork. I believe that even though certain imagery may remain in an artist’s work, the meaning of those images can change over time. When I teach, I often refer to such imagery as personal symbols.
When I first started putting buildings in my work, it was obvious to me that it was because this was part of my everyday scenery. I lived in a very large city and you saw row after row of houses and blocks and blocks of buildings. This post shows some samples of my work from the late 1980s which was all made of cut paper, down to the smallest detail. I truly believe I would not currently have the patience to work in this medium.