I have observed that there is impermanence in our lives spent in the buildings we inhabit and work in, and I am frightened by the precarious nature of the working class. And thus I think a lot about people, and a lot about the spaces they inhabit. People in each other’s space, spaces after people have left, about who makes the space, people who lost their space; about what they left behind there, or maybe took with them. I am interested in space as both an archive and a façade.
Space can be gendered: women in the kitchen and men in the garage, or women in the nail salon and men in the hardware store. Like space, labour is often gendered as well, women knitting in the living room, men tinkering outside.
Space can be controlled. Sometimes it needs permission to be used, although it can be strong-armed. A dimly lit park at night is democratized by the installation of street lights. But even walking on a well-lit street at night I will find an excuse to stop and let the strange man behind me pass.What must it feel like to be him, constantly assumed an aggressor?
Space can be segregated. Whole cities split up by income, by immigration wave, by colour. Yuppies in the burbs, yogis in the Wholefoods, crumbling sidewalks in the hood.
Buildings and the spaces they occupy are vessels, they hold within them residue of the lives that have passed through them, while their outsides are reflections of their time and place. Each brick was placed by someone’s hands, the foundation poured by a crew, porch lights glow from the effort of an electrician. Once a structure is built it becomes like a book with blank pages, ready to be marked and altered to hold its history. The front banister was bent when the second owner backed his car into it. The ornate moulding around the front door is original to the home, covered with eight layers of paints and now out of place now in its rundown neighbourhood. But it hints back to a time when the houses were new, the jobs were union, the hope was palpable.
I understand the buildings in the city I grew up in, and I could probably interpret the ones in my home province. But when I left Alberta I became an outsider. The USA has a history that I know the basics of, but there is so much more regional history I am missing. As I move across the States I use the buildings like markers which I try to interpret. I’m always an outsider looking in, trying to understand the social and economic constructs that I have landed in. Yellow lawns in California signalled drought, seemingly countless Mexican restaurants spoke of history and immigration, and astronomical rent spoke of the tech boom whose fingers of gentrification had began to spread cubist concrete boxes. Philadelphia is covered in garbage, and the roads muddled with potholes. Signs of a large city in poverty with failing public service. But if you look up the cornices crowning the rowhouses you will see that the city was once booming. It was once a manufacturing hub. As you walk past marble stoops you can imagine what life was like before the corner store was shuttered, back when there wasn’t boarded up homes and empty lots. In Philly’s architecture I can also read hope and resilience. From where I sit at night on my old worn marble stoop I can see the signs of change. Those empty lots are beginning to fill with new homes for new families to make their own impression.
My pieces freeze these evolving historical markers. One can often indulge in whimsy more freely when being nostalgic. I gather all my source images from Google, this disconnect between myself and the subject allows me to be a voyeur of the space. The buildings are constructed in 2-point perspective to keep a record of the space’s journey: from its life-sized 3D form, to a 2D online record, and back again to 3D in miniature. Even after their transformation these buildings still contain within them the residue of the people who passed through them. I make each building to represent a family, a community, a person. They serve as both commemorative relics to the tradespeople who built the original structure, and like a canary in a coal mine: signalling the precarious state of the working class.