Monday, February 22, 2010

Neighborhood Portraits

My goal for this triptych was to illustrate the casual and eclectic nature of my urban neighborhood: describe the colors of the houses on my street, the textures in my building, the signage on the sides of restaurants, the graffiti scrawled on the dumpsters.

I like to think of each collage as a little visual poem about my surroundings.

It was important to me that each collage be able to stand alone and still work as a cohesive group when viewed together. (Thus, the repeating elements of target shapes, birds, central composition and color scheme.) I began this project by paying special attention on my walks home from work, making lists and snapping photographs. Each composition is a combination of my own photographs and found images:

[Watertower Collage]

The Watertower collage includes a beautiful piece of East Side architecture, the North Point Watertower. I remember viewing it as a child, squinting at it past the sun and and being told that Rapunzel lived there. Other East Side images include a dirty mattress I photographed last spring, the window well view of a packed basement, and prayer flags fluttering from a neighbor's porch. The pallets for all three collages are drawn from the shutters, signage, mailboxes and siding seen on my street.

[Pabst Blue Ribbon Collage]

Though it hardly constitutes as beer, PBR has become a cult classic. You can see the red and blue can painted on the facades of buildings or crumpled up and covered with frost on your front lawn. I decided to pay homage and poke fun at the hometown favorite while including images of my 100-year-old apartment building's cream city brick exterior and a favorite fading wheat-paste sticker I pass daily.

[Door Bell Collage]

My building is terrible--falling apart at the seams, water stuck under the tub and rotting windowsills--but we're in love. This particular collage is an ode to my apartment, starring my cracked and peeling door bell. The surrounding images are textures either drawn directly from or inspired by my six unit apartment complex.


  1. Molly,

    Great, inspired work here! You really hit the ground running. Great approach here, the individual vignettes, while creating a theme via repeated elements and sustained energy. These compositions are dynamic, engaging, they demand attention, and while a bit thin, they do contain a narrative. I think these compositions act as a great entry point to your neighborhood - while they don't tell us much (history etc.) they do speak of personal experience, of a life lived. One can't help but be curious of the subject matter.
    There is a point where I feel the repeating of elements might wear a bit redundant, but only in certain instances. The bullseye, for example, while such a fun element, has a tendency to demand far too much from a viewer. ....But that element would make a perfect accent to these compositions. ...I do think it fits nicely in the content, just reduce the usage. My favorite - and they do work alone well - is the Watertower Collage. How the elements emanate from the aproned woman, the subtle water tower itself, the ragged mattresses, the rays of light. A peculiar, but enticing mix indeed. Great work.

  2. Max has touched on much of what I would have mentioned. Some further thoughts: in the Watertower Collage, I'm interested in your juxtaposition of the squeaky clean image of a 1950's housewife alongside a dirty mattress and cluttered windowsill. Although the composition on one level has a strong visual appeal, this type of narrative - an interplay between the stereotypical, superficial niceness and the clearly deteriorated, soiled spaces is very telling.

    Your Pabst Blue Ribbon Collage could definitely be viewed as a commentary on PBR drinking culture in several ways. The wings emanating from the can and the rose motif remind me of the 1950's throwback tattoos adorning so many working-class men from our generation who choose to identify with a bygone era. The low-fi black and white bald man and the duct-tape X's recall the punk aesthetic, especially paired with an apparently bleeding gunshot wound on his forehead. And the Cream City brick (identifying the setting as Milwaukee) is the perfect setting for these two so-common sets of characters: the 50's throwback crowd and the punk rockers.

    Your Door Bell Collage is a bit more cryptic, and perhaps personal. Aging apartments and birds on wires are familiar elements of an urban world. They make me think of apartments I've rented in Riverwest; in addition, the bike reminds me of that neighborhood's diy - back to earth mentality. And the bird with the antlers is just the kind of imagery I would expect from the quirky minds of the ironic, somewhat crusty Riverwesterners.

    From my commentary, I am drawing from my own personal experiences. Through your personal style, and the specific imagery you selected, you were successfully able to get me to feel connected to your story. Although my interpretations of the narrative might be way off of your own motivations, you should feel good that a message was conveyed. I wonder if you could examine the connotations I observed and decide whether these are what you intend to convey - if not, your use of this specific set of images might be re-considered. However, if I'm on the right track, then I commend your successful use of illustration to connote these feelings.

  3. Hi! I am really impressed with your work on the first project. I see that you're a drawing and painting major, but your work on the computer really translates, and I feel like you are still getting your style across.

    I love that you used the same style for each of the panels, and the first one is my favorite. The green background mixed with the undersaturated woman are really great together. I also really like your choice of textures ranging from photograph to flat graphic elements.

    Overall, I think it's really beautiful work. I agree with Max in the sense that I could have possibly done with maybe one of two less of the bulls eye shape, but I also really think it works in some instances.

    Nice job :)