Dioramas of suburbs and McMansions

The New York Times has a story about photographers who build model homes and suburban scenes in order to photograph them:

Yet “Otherworldly: Optical Delusions and Small Realities,” at the Museum of Arts and Design, circles back to the two-dimensional image in ways that feel very sophisticated. A good number of the show’s more than 40 artists build model homes, cities and landscapes mainly to photograph them…

James Casebere, meanwhile, shows his photographs but not the architectural models of suburban housing developments on which they are based. By controlling the lighting and printing his images on a large scale, he makes sprawl seem even more aggressive and insidious. In “Landscape With Houses (Dutchess County, N.Y.) #8” tightly spaced McMansions tower over a quaint white-clapboard farmhouse.

Mr. Casebere is something of an anomaly in this show because he is so focused on the present. Other examples of model architecture tend to indulge nostalgia, along the lines of Michael Paul Smith’s bland 1950s strip mall and Alan Wolfson’s gritty little slice of 1970s Canal Street in New York…

The trip through all of these microcosms can be tedious: too many shoeboxes, not enough ideas. One exception is a video by Junebum Park, who uses his hands and a rooftop camera to turn an ordinary parking lot into a kind of moving diorama. A simple trick of perspective is all it takes to make him the master of Matchbox cars and ant-size pedestrians.

The article ends by suggesting that too many of the dioramas are similar. What would happen if an artist presented suburban homes in a positive light rather than portraying sprawl as “aggressive and insidious” – would this be different enough or unacceptable?

I am intrigued by the idea that a “bland” 1950s strip mall induces nostalgia. What exactly does this look like?

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