INTRODUCTION to Ready-Made Dream (2013)
Installation with prints on vinyl and found objects
From the exhibition, American Dreamscape
Ready-Made Dream is based on the continuing narrative of the American Dream as expressed in designs for the ideal home, and in particular, the post-WWII suburban, single-family home – and its miniature manifestation, the modern dollhouse. The artist’s childhood growing up in the 1960’s and 1970’s provides the autobiographical spark to the project, however it is through her exploration of mid 20th century material culture that she re-discovers this era in which consumer culture and the American Dream seemed to become one and the same.
The overall exhibition entitled American Dreamscape, rather than presenting itself as an abstract ideal like the American Dream, can be contemplated as an object – like a landscape of things. At its core, Ready-Made Dream is a contemporary updating of the vanitas painting tradition in which symbolic objects remind the viewer of the transitory nature of human life and the meaninglessness of pursuing worldly goods and pleasures. The choice of the word Dreamscape is significant because, like our dreams, the American Dream can feel real but is illusory. Further, it is in the domestic sphere - the home - where an individual can literally see and palpably experience the Dream becoming a tangible object through the pursuit of possessions and consumer goods – through objects of desire.
Based on mid-20th century home design, the main gallery installation of Ready-Made Dream is comprised of a series of room-sized, trompe l’oeil (literally means “to fool the eye”) compositions that create a fictional-ideal and ultimately ephemeral house. With “walls” that rise 10 feet tall, “rooms” that stretch across expanses as long as 32 feet, and the depiction of a plethora of larger-than-life everyday objects, navigating the installation is something akin to shrinking oneself down (like Alice) in order to enter a make-believe world. The artist’s process begins with detailed gouache paintings of the architectural settings to which are added collage elements from magazines, advertising and out-of-date encyclopedias. The final images are digitally scaled up to billboard size and printed on vinyl, and stretched across the gallery walls using a system of grommets. At discrete intervals, 3D objects of the period such as an avocado wall-mounted telephone, Lincoln Logs, and a paint-by-number painting are interjected into the otherwise flat trompe l’oeil installation, which serves to momentarily rupture the illusion and bring the viewer back to concrete reality. Focusing on the avalanche of new consumer goods and the related marketing that together helped define post-war aspirations, Ready-Made Dream is designed to create a hyper-real, larger-than-life contemplative environment that is as unsettling as it is familiar.
Children’s toys often mirror the world of adults, and so it was that mid-century dollhouses were available in Colonial, Ranch House, and Split-Level styles complete with modernized kitchens, living rooms with picture windows, trend-conscious design elements, rec rooms, breezeways, pools and patios, garages and carports, and even bomb shelters. High-quality, colorful lithographic printing made it possible for playhouses to come to the young consumer ready-made with artwork on the walls, rugs on the floor, drapes and wallpaper installed, possessions on shelves, roasts in the oven, etc. These miniature pre-fab worlds, like their real-world suburban house counterparts, are artifacts of the American Dream – and as an object of child’s play, they provide a model-sized version of the Dream itself.