Suburban gothic - what goes on over the back fence
On the way back from dropping my artworks at Michael Reid Murrurundi, we stopped in at Newcastle to see my old high school girlfriend. She'd recently moved there from Sydney and has settled into that city so well, only a spitting distance away from the glorious Merewether Baths.
We walked and talked. The weather was squally, waves crashed over the walls of the swimming hole. It was beautiful and meditative. When I dated her, she lived in the mountains, it was an hour's drive to see her. My memories of her cottage on the edge of a valley are so vivid. Brushing our teeth by the tank stand outside. It felt hyper-fresh.
In a strange way, I felt a sense of that promise again. I felt that once again the world was fresh and we were both on the cusp of something new and exciting. She has taken up a dramatic new job and I have just dropped off my works for my new art exhibition.
It's our ties to our past that help us make sense of what we are living today. While these new works are not nostalgic, they do evoke a sense of wistfulness in many people. I got a text from a mate today that said "They are so familiar they make me feel nostalgic for simpler times."
I think we always see our past as simpler because we forget all the chaos that was happening around us and glory over the peaks.
So this exhibition, Over the Back Fence, explores the passions and desires of people living out their lives in suburbia. My friend in Newcastle aptly described it as suburban gothic.
"Suburban Gothic is defined by Bernice M. Murphy as "a subgenre of the wider American Gothic tradition which dramatises anxieties arising from the mass urbanisation of the United States and usually features suburban settings, preoccupations and protagonists". She argues that a common trope of the suburban Gothic is the danger within a family or neighbourhood, rather than an external threat. Teenagers and children are often major protagonists or sources of threat and characteristic conflicts often focus on issues of individuality and conformity."
It's absolutely spot on. It's Donnie Darko, Stepford Wives and American Beauty. It's a facade of beauty masking a darker heart.
It's the lives we live and the fears we hide.
The show is on till June 26 at Michael Reid, Murrurundi.