Suburbia

The Unexamined Parts of Our Lives: The suburban landscape paintings of Michael Ward
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The Unexamined Parts of Our Lives: The suburban landscape paintings of Michael Ward

Michael Ward explained that he likes “depicting the things that we see every day and usually don’t pay much attention to – houses, storefronts, and urban scenes. It’s that unexamined part of our life.” Ward says that since he was a young boy, he has taken pictures of houses and aspects of the everyday landscape that interest him. That collection, from which he paints, continues to grow. Over the decades, his paintings reveal a layering of time.

The Suburbs as Our Collective Human Experience: The landscape paintings of Ericka Sobrack
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The Suburbs as Our Collective Human Experience: The landscape paintings of Ericka Sobrack

The suburban environment is a perfect place to start a story because “everybody can read it”, says hyperrealist painter Ericka Sobrack. “I think it’s the closest we can get to recognizing some sort of collective human experience.” Sobrack believes that the acceptability and common understanding of the suburbs allows viewers to take in the depth of her paintings more easily. Her visual narratives explore the isolation and loneliness of suburban life, the safety and threat within these spaces, and the instances that disrupt the American dream.

The Experience of a Better Suburbia: The Suburban Landscape Paintings of Terry Leness
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The Experience of a Better Suburbia: The Suburban Landscape Paintings of Terry Leness

Terry Leness says she is “not necessarily looking for a better suburbia.” She is looking for the “life experience” that it reflects. Leness’ paintings skillfully capture an earlier era of suburbia, reminiscent of her childhood – reveling in the composition, simplicity, lines, and shadows. She loves the time invested in painting so realistically, but also imbues her titles with humor and irony. It is an important aspect and she thinks it triggers a connection with viewers. Leness hopes that painting everyday landscapes is a way to make them endure.

Canvas of Calm: The Suburban Landscape Paintings of Leah Giberson
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Canvas of Calm: The Suburban Landscape Paintings of Leah Giberson

Our suburban landscape can represent
safety. It is often a scene of order that we display externally, even if life inside never actually feels that tranquil. It is this tension between fact and fiction that permeates the architectural paintings of Leah Giberson. The perceived order and normalcy of the suburbs are etched into Giberson’s memory of childhood, in contrast to her rural upbringing. She positions the houses in an intense isolation with suffocating blue skies. Giberson says she unclutters the scene or tries to tame the chaos.

Are Suburbs Becoming Popular Again, with Smart Changes?
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Are Suburbs Becoming Popular Again, with Smart Changes?

There is generally an agreed upon perception of the suburbs. Single family houses, single lots with uniform setbacks, driveways, cars, and lawnmowers. Room for storage. A little distance from the sounds of your neighbors.

But for many who thought their kids would be able to walk to school, or into town, the reality is that they can’t do so safely, or the distance is too great. However, change is in the air and new approaches to the suburbs are keeping them attractive for younger generations.

Is the World Flat? The Evolving American Landscape
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Is the World Flat? The Evolving American Landscape

I want to dive deeper into what authors have determined about placelessness through the decades of studying cities, suburbs, America, and place change. We can all envision a special place from our past or present. Maybe it’s the neighborhood where we grew up.

These places likely don’t include a box store plaza and are probably starkly different from a commercial strip mall, or a new housing sub division.

Why Place Matters: Placelessness and Place Attachment
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Why Place Matters: Placelessness and Place Attachment

Do you feel out of place? Do you feel like places are becoming less distinct? – like places are placeless? Do commercial centers and restaurants, perhaps even houses, feel the same wherever you are? Some scholars believe that distinct places are less common today, but others disagree. Before we dive into where they see differences,…