Published: May 29, 2005
Constructed Identities 11


Making the Ordinary Extraordinary


What exactly do we mean when we use the term ''the American dream''? Clearly it means different things to different people, but just how different, and often how contradictory, is the theme of this group show.

Upward mobility is one of the dream's enduring clich╠ęs, symbolized by the suburban home. In Sheri Rose Warshauer's ''Modern Makeover,'' a large acrylic painting, that environment is a sterile design, a poster of itself rather than a place in which life is actually lived.

In Whitney Stolich's ''Landuse'' photographs, distorted scale and centralized focus blur the distinction between the real and the artificial. Mark Marchesi steps back to take a longer view of the same sort of housing seen in Mr. Stolich's shot of cookie-cutter condominiums, but now it is an aberration in an already blighted landscape.

Americans are supposed to be able to build their own identities, to move in any direction within a classless society -- at least that's the dream. The reality is that people are more often typecast, by themselves no less than others.

Alix Smith's formal portrait photographs of people in their homes virtually require the onlooker to judge them according to society's preconceptions, knowing only what is visible in the picture.

Football's status as a symbol of aggressive power and a celebration of team spirit is critiqued by Brian Finke and William Crump. Mr. Finke's photographs of an earnest young player and an equally absorbed cheerleader are far from rah-rah homages to high school sports. Both look somehow warped by their devotion to the game.

Mr. Crump's paintings use sports iconography as a kind of brand-name imprint, but with dark significance, as in ''All Star,'' in which a pattern of skulls reminds viewers that even the greatest quarterback can't win against death.




Constructed Identities 4

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