The 1985 novel White Noise, by Don DeLillo, describes the story of a peaceful middle-class college town beset by a sudden industrial disaster. A train derailment results in chemicals rising into the atmosphere, creating an incident that the authorities describe as the Toxic Airborne Event. The long term implications for the town and its occupants are unknown, although in the wake of this chemical spill, the sunsets over town have become achingly beautiful.
My vibrant and saturated acrylic paintings and colored pencil drawings are influenced by the locations and events of this novel. I am drawn to urban and suburban settings: single-family homes, parking lots, highways. And while these places are settings in the book, they also are where I lived and grew up throughout my childhood and into my adult life.
A snow covered cul-de-sac in the middle of winter. Two cars parked in a half-completed housing development. Dense foliage casting lace shadows on vinyl siding. These scenes describe the content of my paintings and drawings, but they also describe the rhythms and patterns of American life. As I make my work, I am making visual observations and documenting the decisions that led to our urban and suburban environments looking the way they do.
I discover the content for my work by regularly walking and biking around different neighborhoods in the different cities that I’ve lived in (Pittsburgh, Boston, Austin). I also explore virtually through Google Earth and Google StreetView. These physical and virtual journeys are a way to explore and learn more about the communities I’m familiar with. I want to stick to the places that I know in order to deepen my relationship to these areas and so that I can better research and learn more about how they came to be in their present incarnations.
I believe the truly beautiful can be found in these regular places that were constructed out of convenience, by accident, or by happenstance. I have watched fireworks shows while sitting in a lawn chair in a mall parking lot. I’ve been stopped in my tracks while leaving a sporting goods store to marvel at the sun setting over a Best Buy. However beautiful and moving these scenes were, that beauty comes with a complicating factor.
Our modern day enjoyment of beauty is undercut by the knowledge that our behavior and our technology has had unforeseeable impacts on our environment and on each other. By painting and drawing these scenes, I wish to recognize and share with others the conflict I feel that is present in our search for beauty and our aesthetic appreciation of the world around us.