As mentioned before, the inspiration for this piece was a documentary I watched on paper folding as well as participating in my grandson’s bedtime routine. What I did not mention in that post was my longtime fascination depicting people of different ethnic and racial groups together. This manifested itself with multicolored circles that represented faces; this was one of those personal symbols that showed up in my work off and on over time. So the various color papers used above are my current way of representing the tradition of bedtime routines throughout the many cultures of the world. It also struck me after this piece was put together that the people also resemble houses, another long time symbol in my work. Hmmmm….
Several months ago, I watched a wonderful video called Between the Folds which went into great and surprising detail on the art of paper folding, also known as origami. The video covers way beyond what we traditionally think of and even gets into how the art form is also being used by scientists to study complicated problems. So of course after the show was over, I got a piece of paper and started to fold it. The form that I liked the most is pictured below. It reminded me of a mother holding a baby.
I saw this video not long after visiting my grandson. One of the things I enjoy most about my visits is participating in his elaborate and nurturing bedtime routine. I started to think of lots of parents and their children and bedtime routines, remembering the one we had with our daughter. It quickly came to me that this was the making of a “bedtime story”. So I started to experiment with coloring papers and different types of papers thinking of a quilt like form to play with.
After deciding on the colors I would use and folding a number of the squares, I pieced things together as seen below.
While this may look nice, it was clearly not going to work. My overall idea was to have this structure fold up into one square that could be stored in a box, sort of like folding up a quilt and storing it and taking it out when you use it. The other problem was that I wanted to add stitching and it was very difficult to stitch in this form. So after wresting with this for several weeks, putting it away and taking it out to think about it some more, I decided it needed to come apart.
Maybe I am putting too much emphasis on the ‘quilt’ idea and not enough on the ‘story’ idea. Perhaps putting equal emphasis on both: the quilt and the story? I found some handmade paper I purchased a few years ago that spoke to me for no reason except that I knew they would be perfect for something someday. That day came today. So here is the current version of the Bedtime Story, though it is still far from finished. The smaller squares are not yet glued down so this is a layout pictured below. I will post the piece when it is finished. I am also documenting this via short (1 minute) videos on my Instagram account.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.