Siege reconsiders the proverbial expression “a man’s home is his castle” with this group photography exhibition presented at the Kala Gallery. The phrase initially referenced the principle of individual privacy that is fundamental to the American system of government, yet it seems to have expanded to define a nation of citizens inhabiting their own private fortresses. Siege explores suburban tract developments, whimsical 1930’s fantasy castles, the contemporary ghost town, and stately homes under siege by the ravages of nature, time, neglect and decay.
Curated by Lauren Davies, Siege includes artists Nell Dickerson (Santa Fe), Eirik Johnson (Boston), Ali Richards (London), Alice Shaw (San Francisco) and collaborators Luther Thie/Kathrine Worel (Oakland).
Nell Dickerson is a photographer, architect, Hollywood set designer, and a fourth generation cotton farmer on her family’s ancestral land in the heart of the Mississippi Delta. Nell presents photographs from her architectural documentary series “Gone.” These once stately antebellum homes built in the Deep South during the pre-Civil War era are now under siege by the ruinous affects of time and neglect.
This regional architectural neglect may be partially due to the unfortunate reminder that slavery probably sustained these formerly magnificent homes and farmlands. In addition to her work as a photographer, Nell remains actively involved with several agencies to preserve, protect, and rebuild the rich culture of the South.
Eirik Johnson presents photographs from his West Oakland Walk project that documents a historic district altered over time by the construction of factories and freeways that eventually left the neighborhood cut-off and isolated from rest of the city. Eirik’s morning walks around West Oakland reveal hard edges everywhere as he photographs windows covered in security bars, yards barricaded by plywood walls and attack dogs peering out from behind makeshift fences. His photographs deal with urban poverty, isolation and crime brought on by economic factors that have left a neighborhood essentially abandoned. Eirik is currently based in Boston and teaches at Massachusetts College of Art.
Ali Richards presents selected photographs from Jesusita Summerland, a series that documents the Californian wildfires that primarily affected an exclusive demographic in their own private landscape. If there can possibly be a plus side to a disaster such as the loss of a home and belongings to a violent fire-storm, then perhaps it is the fact that some residents discovered neighbors they had never met on the other side of a now smoldering hedge. Jesusita Summerland includes over 75 images that are being assembled into a book accompanied by first hand accounts of how residents coped with the aftermath of the fires, the environmental impact and insight into the future regeneration of this landscape and it’s new communities. Ali Richards was a Kala Fellow in the summer of 2009 when she began work on this project.
Alice Shaw is quick to remind us that we in the United States we do not actually have royalty, at least not in the sense of a monarchy. Theoretically, in our society one is not subjected to the economic status they are born into and it is always possible to rise above the preceding generation. After all, the “American Dream” is based on the individual’s ability to become whatever one pleases and to create a life he wants to lead. Castles of the United States of America is Alice’s humorous examination of how even the common man can literally become king of his own castle. Alice Shaw is a San Francisco-based artist known for her works that explore personal identity with an underlying humor. She currently teaches photography at San Francisco Art Institute.
As native Californians, collaborators Luther Thie & Kathrine Worel, have seen the hills and open spaces of their childhoods disappear beneath sprawl and creeping subdivisions. Frontiers is a series of photographs that document this most recent housing boom and bust in the parched Central Valley town of Merced. Vast tracts of empty housing shells occupy once rich farmland that has been paved over. Frontiers reveal fragments of a contemporary suburban ghost town: diced up plots with
decimated lawns; streets lined with dead trees; and empty cul-de-sacs wired for future dream homes. Thie and Worel solemnly noted – someone could die out here and not be found for days. Thie and Worel work both collaboratively and independently on projects involving installation, photography, video and new media.