stephen blaise lawn

lawn care

Lawn sprinklers or alien artifacts?

A multidisciplinary show, which includes video, photographs sculpture and installation art. Utilitarian objects, man-made tools, interactive and kinetic. A lawn mower, American flag and flagpole, seed spreaders, oscillating lawn sprinklers and garden hose all sit on a carpet of grass that covers the main gallery floor. On one wall, large-scale photographic prints of industrial designed lawn sprinklers are transformed into giant robotic obelisks. On the opposite wall, brightly colored resin-cast lawn mower grills bring to mind ominous or bizarre cultural totems. In the main space, slow-motion video of machines shot in graphic close-up are projected floor to ceiling, dispensing water continuously. In a separate smaller room, three distinct videos play simultaneously. The first video is a close-up shot of a tree mounted squirrel feeder with a plain backdrop. Squirrels enter and exit the frame as they continue to eat the corn hanging from the feeder. The next video consists of garden flowers juxtaposed with artificial graduated backgrounds. In the third video, suburbanites provide testimonials describing the detailed process and personal struggles they have endured while achieving and maintaining a perfect lawn.

The importance of ‘A Perfect Lawn’ began to reach its height in the U.S. as a manifestation of the post war utopian dream. America became the ‘Dominant Culture’, a culture of comfort and ease. Each house was filled with all the right amenities. Contained within; an easy chair, TV, vacuum cleaner and the latest in household appliances. Outside, was the car, the driveway and the ‘crown jewel’, a perfect lawn. This constructed utopia became a picture postcard of the specifically suburban-American ideal. With this modern ideal came a striving towards sameness.

Knowledge of lawn care is paramount in order to obtain optimum results. In proper lawn care, it is necessary to water regularly, but not over water. A good lawn requires time, commitment and financial investment. Detailed planning, quality seed, topsoil, calculations, grade, drainage and seasonal timing are just a few of the necessary elements needed to achieve the best results. For some, it is an ongoing source of stress and consternation to keep up with their neighbors and maintain a beautiful lawn. They battle infestations, sun damage and dry patches all year long in this endeavor. Just a simple struggle with weeds or crabgrass might cause sleepless nights for a homeowner who helplessly watches the disdain build in their neighbors eyes as their property values dwindle.

If aliens were to visit Earth in a million years to find the relics of our society, they might guess that what we valued most in America were our lawns. We cared and devoted countless hours to maintaining our lawns. We cared about how other people viewed us.

In America, it is acceptable to break from the pack and be different, but not with your lawn. It is an unwritten social contract to ‘keep up your lawn’. The ideology of modern development is the simple philosophy of ‘sameness’ governs. Constructed realities, cookie-cut-out homes and lawns that require constant care, is this where modernity and our instincts have led us? Water, which gave birth to human’s now feeds grass seeds and a utopian dream.

In Blaise’s work, objects and humans alike exist as interchangeable matter and energy as part of the fabric of the universe. Here, the universe manifests in an ordinary lawn sprinkler or garden hose. In ‘Lawn Care’, commonplace, utilitarian tools are transformed into playful objects of wonder in large-scale prints, sculpture and video.