Drought leads to more lawn spray-painting, lawn removal in California

Painting the lawn is not new but the practice has picked up in California with the big drought underway:

For about $300, the New York Times reports, homeowners can transform their sun-baked brown lawns into lush, bright shades of green. According to the Times, “there are dozens of lawn paint options available, from longer-lasting formulas typically used on high-traffic turf such as ballparks and golf courses, to naturally derived products that rely on a highly concentrated pigment.”

Drew McClellan, who launched a lawn-spraying business in July, told the paper he has more requests than he can handle…

According to LawnLift, a San Diego lawn paint manufacturer, sales of its “all-natural, non-toxic and biodegradable grass and mulch paint” have tripled this year.

In April, Gov. Jerry Brown issued an executive order that limited the watering of “ornamental landscape or turf” to no more than two days per week. Violators are subject to fines of up to $500…

A spokesman for the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California told The Associated Press that the consortium received requests to remove 2.5 million square feet in residential lawns in July, up from 99,000 in January. The Municipal Water District of Orange County is taking in 20 to 30 applications a day, the AP said. The Santa Clara Valley Water District, which serves Silicon Valley, received more than 1,700 requests.

Between the ripping out of lawns and painting the lawn, this is a rather large project. Two quick thoughts:

1. I wonder if this signals a long-term shift away from lawns in California. The drought may answer this question, particularly if it lasts a long time, but it would be interesting to see what happens if the drought ends soon: would people go back to lawns?

2. Could a green lawn now become even more of a status symbol, symbolizing that a person has the means to keep it going even under these dry conditions? Or, perhaps the shift away from lawns will be accompanied by the development of new status symbols in yards.

You can indeed paint McMansions and the suburbs

One columnist is taken aback when someone is able to paint the suburbs:

Some while back, I sniped that, while landscapes of the kind that made the New Hope School of Impressionist Painting so influential continue to be painted in the absence of the actual scenery, the McMansions that knocked farmland off the map seem not to have inspired anyone.

I was wrong. For several years, pastel artist Michael Wommack of Langhorne has been exploring the suburban grid, affectionately in the case of Levittown, where he grew up, and with more of an edge when it comes to pretentious developments in the former hinterlands.

Wommack’s “A False Sense of Security,” among works on view at Pennswood Village through May 12, was inspired by a cul-de-sac in a pricey neighborhood the artist drove past one day…

He calls his tract-house studies “The Suburbia Series.” “People who know Levittown call it ‘The Levittown Series,’ ” he says.

This might confound suburban critics who often argue that suburbs have little redeeming value. Art dealing with the suburbs, whether it is in novels, on the big screen, or on canvas should then be devoted to the hidden dark sides of suburbia. But, suburbs, like other locations, are made up of people trying to make sense of the world, however misguided their efforts might be. For someone who grew up in one of the Levittowns, it sounds like a perfect subject to me.

It would then be interesting to see how people respond to such paintings. Would critics take non-critical depictions of the suburbs seriously? Would exactly would purchase paintings depicting Levittown-like communities?

Painting the church of Walmart

Lots of “normal” activities take place at Walmart so why not spiritual matters as well? Artist Brenden O’Connell has taken up the subject:

For the past decade, O’Connell has been snapping photographs inside dozens of Wal-Marts. The images have served as inspiration for an ongoing series of paintings of everyday life — much of which involves shopping, which O’Connell calls “that great contemporary pastime.”

“Wal-Mart was an obvious place” to look for inspiration, he tells The Salt. “It’s sort of the house that holds all American brands.”…

Wal-Mart stores, he notes, are “probably one of the most trafficked interior spaces in the world.” In the tall, open, cathedral-like ceilings of Wal-Mart’s big-box stores, he sees parallels to church interiors of old.

“There is something in us that aspires to some kind of transcendence,” he told me back in February. “And as we’ve culturally turned from religious things, we’ve turned our transcendence to acquisition and satisfying desires.”

In conversation, O’Connell comes across as thoughtful and urbane. He’s well aware that, as a company, Wal-Mart can be polarizing. But “regardless of your feelings about it,” he told me back then, “it just is. It’s like an irrevocable reality that’s part of our experience.”

On the occasions that we go to church and then Walmart afterward, I have joked that we are visiting America’s two kinds of churches. This may not be too far from reality considering the number of shoppers at Walmart, its yearly sales, and the power of its brand. But, it is really that surprising that a retail store could be the contemporary version of a spiritual space when our country is so devoted to consumption and shopping?