My neighborhood is finally gentrifying. A white barred owl sat in my street the other night as I pulled into the driveway and I realized she’d probably been displaced by all the tree removal behind my back 40. My property lies between the city of Avondale and unincorporated Dekalb county. For now there is no comprehensive or overall plan in place; this area would probably be considered a free for all for builders and developers, if they had any money. When I bought the property in 1987, this area wasn’t on anyone’s radar – and not even the usual suspects (artists) had pegged it as a great place to set down roots.
During the 14 years that I was away working in other states, my neighbors got together over changes to the zoning, when developers wanted to build a ridiculous number of houses per lot. At the height of the real estate boom, a few people sold their relatively large tracts of land, one couple behind me sold an acre. Some neighbors fought what is now called a Scottdale Tier IV Overlay, but most were willing to lose the + hundred year old trees and put in large three story houses. Preserving the integrity and historical value of a community is not only mostly unwanted, but largely misunderstood in these parts.
All of that is a preface to my new paintings. Since the bulldozers have come in, along with whatever machine is able to tear out huge tree roots, orange safety fencing and swaths of the last green brush have been creeping into my work. My studio overlooks the construction sites and the 5th and last house’s basement is being excavated this week.
I’m not happy about the development, although as an artist I get the visual boost of the orange fencing. And in much of my work, this conflict between urbanization and the pastoral beauty of place becomes a character. The displacement of birds, trees and/or homeless winos, along with the lower end of the population is the result of what some call ‘progress’.
High Density- work in progress. Oil on canvas, 28″ x 34″ 2012.
High Density, close-up.
Barrier. Oil and acrylic on canvas panel, 16″ x 20″ 2012.
Horizon. Acrylic on canvas 7.5″ x 7.5″ 2012.
December 1, 2011.
February 1, 2012.