Part of the fun of building a sand castle on the beach is watching the destruction as the incoming surf washes it away. But instead of fun, the collapse of the sand castles built by artist Chad Wright evokes something moody and dark.
Called Master Plan, this series reminds me of the old maxim, "a man's home is his castle."
Instead of using the traditional forms of high "stone" walls or towers for dragons or princesses, Wright based the architecture of his buildings on the small, single-family homes that were built all over the US in the 40s and 50s as soldiers returned from the war and started families.
Laid out in neat rows, like the residential neighborhoods they are inspired by, these homes feel more familiar -- more human and vulnerable -- than the fantastically large castles we're used to seeing constructed by kids on the beach.
Wright describes in his inspiration in this artist statement:
I was raised in Orange County—a sprawling suburb of Southern California built by disciples of Levittown. We lived in a tract house, a symbol of the American Dream, just like our neighbors. Dad, a realtor, and mom, a preschool teacher, met while working at JCPenneys in 1970. We spent our summers in Breezy Point, New York, at the yellow beach bungalow that my grandma Stella bought with war bonds, unknown to grandpa who was stationed in Iwo Jima soon after they eloped. As children, my big brother Christopher and I would build cities in the sand, beneath the bungalow’s slatted porch floorboards.
In a series titled Master Plan, I am conflating a child’s sandcastle with architecture typifying postwar American suburbia. This three-part series culls artifacts from my childhood, investigating suburbia in its vision and legacy. Phase One focuses on the mass-produced tract house, re-examining it as symbol for the model American Dream.
I like his allusion to The American Dream, but it reminds me more of a nightmare, particularly the scene from Inception when the characters are surrounded by a crumbling city being swallowed into the ocean:
At the art blog, This is Colossal, they write that Wright's piece "is meant to juxtapose the playful childhood experience of building sand castles on the beach with his brother, versus the grim, modern-day reality of our current real estate collapse."
That is an apt interpretation, especially in the context of our struggling economy. However, as someone that thinks and writes often about climate change, including the growing concerns over how rising sea levels will force people to migrate away from the coasts, it's hard not to see these photos as a statement on global warming, as well.
For more of Wright's art, visit Chad Wright's Master Plan.
Photography by Lynn Kloythanomsup of Architectural Black.