Drawing artistic inspiration from growing up around McMansions

Artist Katherine Vetne builds upon a childhood spent around McMansions:

Vetne says her interests in exploring (and subverting) objects of status and consumerism started when she was growing up in Newburyport, Mass. She observed the differences between established “old money” and the newly affluent: A lot of the newer families built “McMansion” houses that looked like new versions of the town’s historic homes in an attempt to emulate that status.

Those experiences led to a unique form of art:

Vetne, 31, of San Francisco, has been building a reputation as a sculptor who works in an unusual medium: destruction. Vetne’s best-known work during the past three years has been a series of sculptures made from kiln-melted housewares crystal, which takes a distinctive, puddle-like shape when heated.

She then “mirrors” the melted crystal mass in a chemical process that turns the blobs into reflective objects. The pieces are presented individually or in big groups, like in her “Guilty Pleasures” installation that was part of the Catharine Clark Gallery’s summer show, “We tell ourselves stories … In order to live.” Ford and Vetne took the shopping trip at Clark’s invitation to find the raw material for a piece Ford recently commissioned from Vetne.

The idea of working with crystal, whether it’s fine Baccarat or more mass-market Avon, appeals to Vetne, who is interested in exploring issues of class, gender and materialism. “At the crux of my practice is the more middle-class people with some amount of resources trying to look ‘higher class’ than they are through the objects they acquire. I am interested in concepts of visual excess and how they’re supposed to communicate something. Usually, it’s ‘I have a lot of money.’”

Given the general reputation of McMansions, this is not surprising: take objects by which aspiring people try to build up their status and then destroy them to show what those objects are really about. Perhaps it would even be more shocking if an artist celebrated McMansions.

I’m also trying to imagine this destruction process applied to actual McMansions or parts of McMansions. Could a piece of performance art involve taking a wrecking ball to a McMansion? Or, imagine taking a two story foyer to a museum and showing it falling apart every so often, like the way “Concert for Anarchy” displays a piano in an unusual form. Or, take granite countertops and stainless steel appliances and destroy them.

Comparing aliens, asteroids, and ghosts destroying cities

Mass destruction of cities is a common feature of action films but what creatures bring about the most destruction?

Anyway, this all got us wondering why aliens hate Earth architecture so much, and then we realized that it’s not just aliens—Earth architecture is also hated by asteroids and ghosts. Let us review the evidence…

Verdict: Asteroids

It’s got to be asteroids. Asteroids are such jerks.

Not exactly a scientific review of the available evidence (how hard would it be to analyze all the movies with such urban destruction) but still an interesting question to ponder. Nature, in the form of asteroids, does not care about what exactly is destroyed. Asteroids of large size rarely hit earth and what are the odds that they would regularly hit major cities as opposed to falling in the ocean. At the same time, asteroids are faceless villains whereas you can fight or negotiate with aliens and ghosts.

We could also ask whether it is best for other worldly villains to take out key architectural landmarks versus other strategic targets. The first has symbolic value but key infrastructure would be much more crippling. Perhaps this is the equivalent of the bad guys always having bad aim as they try to shoot; these villains always go for visible targets, giving responders time to come up with a plan.