Saturday, November 4th, 2006
Suburbia is eerily fascinating. As a psychological concept, it’s somewhere nestled safely between country and city. It has none of the critters or isolation of the country, but also none of the grit, crime or noise of the city. Not too many trees, so that the darkness and the unknown might threaten to overtake the warmth and control of the home, but enough greenery that the idea of lush life can make its presence known in rows and pleasant curves along walkways. If these are the goals, why does it leave so many of us feeling cold and estranged? How many people enjoy traversing the winding parking lots of the shopping malls and eateries that multiply like horrific clones along every suburban commercial strip in America? Instead of the comfort it promises, it seems more often to deliver loneliness of a specific sort… a dull meaninglessness cushioned by purchases and distractions.
Ross Sawyers‘ photographs illustrate a sense of suburban isolation with quiet, studied impact. His interiors are unpeopled and unfurnished rooms painted the catalog colors of the day. Sun or weak daylight angle and leak through the spaces like uninvited guests, moving around other walls and buildings in order to enter. A crucial element about Sawyers’ images is that they are photographs of his own scale models, meticulously built, painted and lit in order to elevate the sense of artifice. Alongside the body of work that shows freshly built spaces that almost smell like new drywall (Approximations), he produces another set of destroyed environments (Decay), which act as a scratching away of that suburban itch, peeling back cheap building materials or flooding rooms with water until the textures and colors are more richly hued, more fragile, more real. Yet even these disasters are staged, and we realize that we have been lured into an unnatural world in order to examine our distances, to see where and why we are estranged, to question at the same time both the veracity of the image and the quality of our lives.
Top: No Title (From Approximations) 35" x 35" C-Print, 2006
Living Room 30" x 40" C-Print, 2004