I use 3D special effects and computer game authoring software to create still images of post-industrial cities. The compositions utilize the conventions of nineteenth-century American landscape painting. These early art conventions were consciously developed to convey specific ideals about the American national identity, both domestically and to the world. Conceptions such as freedom, individualism, ruggedness, industriousness, and “a people blessed by God” were often presented through these images, as if they were a natural outgrowth of the physical geography of the United States. Much of this work depicted details of vistas that existed in the American landscape. At the same time, artists of this school liberally took creative license to inscribe notions of “American-ness” into these realistic-looking representations. While these visual conventions have long since become moribund, the ideas they were constructed to signify are still very active in present-day American political, cultural, and social discourses.
The images I created for the series Here were initially inspired by my first impressions of the forty thousand abandoned buildings and lots strewn throughout the historic city of Philadelphia. These structures are not only artifacts of a past way of life and social expectations very different from those of today but also starkly point to a whole range of contemporary social dynamics related to the deindustrialization and financialization of the American economy. In this regard, Philadelphia is similar to many cities and towns in the present-day American landscape, particularly since 2008.