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I was raised in Italy from the age of five and when I returned to the United States at eighteen, I was surprised by the way I was affected by the landscape I had never known or explored. I found myself drawn to American culture as it is stereotypically represented in movies and TV - the quaint houses, the schools with cheerleaders and locker rooms, the drive-in movie theaters – and began to examine how those stereotypes are reflected in the real world. From this initial interest I began exploring the American space that I envisioned myself inhabiting throughout my childhood and the culture that I longed to identify with; the place I would’ve called home. I began focusing on those elements of the built environment that reflect a culture which I define as distinctly American. In Italy, history is visual, physical and constantly present. In America, history often seems intangible, set within the parameters of museums, statues and plaques. This project examines America as a multifaceted and malleable culture. In this complex visual landscape, I focus on a common and universal history that goes beyond its typical representation.
American topography, both natural and social, lacks a sense of permanence. This is reflected in its architecture, its cultural norms and its traditions which seem to be in a constant state of flux. The seemingly short architectural lifecycle in America creates a particular visual dynamic between permanent and transient spaces. I am interested in the disposability of the built landscape and the way that this young country is grappling with managing itself through time - everything lives and dies so quickly. Cultural and architectural styles are always developing and redeveloping, with one often growing alongside the decay of another. I am fascinated by the American dream, the construction of the ideal life within that dream and the tension between the artificiality of a constructed, idealized world and the natural, unassuming one.
While these images all belong to a specific location within the country, they add up to form my personal experience and understanding of a space and a history. My goal is to not get caught in the specificity of the culture, but rather to explore the ways in which the ordinary and the extraordinary play a part in a foreigner’s stereotypical understanding of America.
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Fernie, Bowen Walsh, "American Idyll: A Place To Call Home" (2018). Senior Projects Spring 2018. 394.
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