MEET YOUR NEIGHBOR
Who are the people who live next door? What are their lives like? What do they care about? These are the questions that originally informed the Meet Your Neighbor project, in which I found myself inside foreign but familiar homes, photographing foreign but familiar faces and personal objects that told something of their history. In March 2020, as a large percentage of the global population was instructed socially distance, the opportunity to approach my neighbors vanished, and almost overnight this project took on new meaning.
Meet Your Neighbor is an ongoing series of artworks documenting some of the last of Eastern Long Island’s small houses and the people who occupy them. According to the U.S. census, the size of a typical single-family home expanded from 983 square feet to 2,500 between 1950 and 2012. Once an identifier of the intimate nature of a “small town," these modest homes are now frequently torn down to make way for a home with a much larger footprint. In my studio, I’ve extracted the images of these (historic/tiny/modest) homes from their original sites, and “moved” them onto images of the now rare open spaces found in my community. These dwellings, hovering dreamlike over their newly appointed landscapes, offer the viewer a reverent moment to appreciate the safety and intimacy of small towns throughout America. As I’ve worked on this series, New York began grappling with being the state first and hardest hit by the Covid-19 virus. Suddenly the tone of two terms describing this series, “shelter” and “place” took on a complexity that could not have been foreseen.
Although home represents a place of order, being confined to our houses (regardless of size) due to a global pandemic is far from the charm of a seasonal blizzard or blackout. Our houses grew smaller as the news grew bleaker and our proximity to one another, without routine or autonomy, made living under one roof challenging to say the least. Regardless of my original thesis for these works, it is inevitable that their timely presentation reflects our shared anxieties in light of the past year. An image of a home hovering in space, dislocated, isolated, distanced now speaks as much to the memory of the families who were holed up inside, protecting themselves from an invisible enemy. The works are not only a meditation on the changing landscape of the American town but how crucial our interconnectedness is to our survival.