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Art Show: Suburbia

Prospectus and Entry Instructions

Exhibit Entries accepted from 1/15/2004 to 2/14/2004.

Banner for Suburbia art show

Prospectus

Ah, Suburbia. Reviled and idealized. Strived for and loathed. Ridiculed and praised. Suburbia is many things to many people and has become an icon of modern living. Whether it is cookie cutter homes or "cook-outs" in the summer, bikes on the lawn or the "Stepford Wives." Whether you find the modern-day "Utopia" serious, amusing or just plain absurd, turn your eye towards Suburbia, its landscapes and inhabitants, and show us what you see.

Eligibility: The artist must be a juried member of EBSQ Plus to participate.

This is a Juried Show

Juror: Adrian Zoot

Juror's Statement

Suburbia is a topic, which inspires people to talk in clichés, and though that's often with good reason, I was looking forward to seeing the ways in which EBSQ artists went beyond the stereotype and explored some of the visual and conceptual possibilities presented by the bourgeois utopia.

Neither “suburb is paradise” nor "suburb is hell" quite does this artificial environment justice. Paradox is at the heart of suburbia: it's the triumph of individualism, yet everything looks the same. It attempts to simulate nature via engineering. It's synonymous with "middle-class" -- yet loaded with "aristocratic" symbolism. Its tranquility is achieved by excluding the rest of the world. At the same time, the hostility with which social critics have regarded the suburb is often driven by ideological bias: as a type of utopia, suburbia competes with other visions -- modernist, collectivist, more recently neo-urbanist -- and, arguably, has outstripped them. It borrows some features of the "Radiant City" while being rooted in entrepreneurialism, market economics and the nuclear family.

In making the three Juror's Choice selections, I responded most strongly to three compelling, fully realized visions of this American dreamland. In Ann Harper's "Prisoners of War", doll-like children in camouflage play among miniature houses. Monstrous children, riveting as Diane Arbus' twins or the little dead girl in Kubrick's The Shining, embody the suburban fertility myth -- it's the land of calcium-enriched children and baby-faced adults -- while their toys and clothes provide evidence of the price paid for maintaining this greeny idyll. The painting's fantastic, dreamed quality teeters on the edge between the magical and the grotesque.

Jenny Doss' "Social Network" presents the suburb as a technological artifact, a device for living. With its switchboard-like lines linking generic houses, the painting relates "community" to "communication" or "connectivity." Yet in this mechanized environment things are off-center and skew -- the connector road, the spacing between houses. From an instrumentalist point of view, these irregularities are a design flaw, or a problem with execution -- something, in any case, to be smoothed out in the upgrade. From another angle, they are what keep the environment from becoming completely routinized and depersonalized.

Linda Falge's "Each in Their Own Little Box" wryly plays off of suburban compartmentalization, divvying up an open-ended set of activities and sensibilities. Not only are these separated from each other, but the painting seems to depict the suburban self as an agglomeration of pursuits and interests which don't quite add up into an integrated whole. At the same time, Falge's use of color creates warmth and vibrancy -- this suburb is an inviting, if schizo place. And in an interesting way the painting pushes attention back towards the viewer: who is observing all this? Which of the boxes do we "relate" to and which belong to the neighbors?

The four pieces selected for Juror's Mention also impressed me with their artistry, imagination and conceptual originality. Kimba's "Lil' Pink Houses" conveys the subdued surreality of an over-landscaped environment, complete with trees that might have come out of a storybook -- or a lab. Lee Smith's "Life in the Burbs" takes a figure of speech literally, creating a memorable image: her fishbowl suburb resembles a planet, adrift in darkness and seemingly oblivious to its own fragility. The inspired brushwork in Caroline Lassovszky Baker's "Young Suburban Sociologists", unleashes a giddy, transformative magic. In "Frosted Lime Jello," Linda O'Neill's memorial to the iconic fifties housewife, a blue gash tears through the stock images, signaling liberation.

About the Juror

Adrian Zoot writes regularly at Global Suburb, a Salon blog, and has published poems, stories and essays, most recently in Virtual Occoquan. He lives in Maryland, where he works as an editor.

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