Meagan Stirling is an Instructor in the College of Arts & Media at the University of Colorado Denver. Her MFA in Printmaking was earned from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Having spent extensive time in the art marketplace, both exhibiting and selling her own artwork locally and nationally, she is very familiar with the creative industry.
We got to see how unimaginative our suburb was, everything
laid out on a grid whose bland uniformity the trees had hidden,
and the old ruses of differentiated architectural styles lost their
power to make us feel unique.
- Jeffrey Eugenides, The Virgin Suicides
Nostalgia for a less complicated past is seductive. Many of today’s living spaces rework our past experiences in an attempt to reconstruct an idealized way of life. The notion of a safe home and community—streetlights, covenants, speed bumps, alarms, fences—are overlaid onto suburban spaces.
This overlay is intended to make more secure a life characterized by change and the unexpected. Specifically, within the pattern and immensity of suburbia this carefully formed set of rules—stop signs, sidewalks, crossing guards, school speed zones—encourage community and personal well-being, but fail to create an absolute space of safety. These rules exist to model how one should function in these spaces, yet the over-imagined idea of safety becomes weakened by isolation, chance, and tragedy.
By examining some of the complexities and illusions through the antithetical patterns and configurations of daily life, I explore to what extent safety is part of the national psyche. Can safety be controlled? And, do the spaces and rules of safety cover over the fear of being unsafe? The American home is imagined in a community with a strong sense of permanence and place, where neighbors know one another, and children are safe. Subdivisions crisscrossed with rows of box houses in close-knit communities are just as likely to be marked by the unexpected; Life is not predictable, safe, unchanging, or necessarily predictable.