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.
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 »