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Answering Earth

Steven Lemke.jpg

Deconstructed Paradise


laser-cut plywood, polystyrene, wooden boards, OSB wood, house paint, and ink; dimensions variable. 

Series of 17 elevated landscapes suspended on wooden supports and adorned with approximately 100 ladders.

Steven Lemke

What does community look like in a society defined by physical isolation and societal upheaval? Using wood, polystyrene, acrylic stucco, and digital fabrication technology, I create sculptural landscapes informed by on-site research of housing developments such as Levittown, New York–a community that is both the forebear of American suburban design and a prominent symbol of racial and social exclusion in residential planning. As a sculptor from the rural American Midwest, my resulting installations question how our built spaces increasingly result in dramatic class divides. In doing so, I seek to visualize the territorial and sociopolitical web we weave on the places we inhabit and speculate upon eco-mutual land use alternatives for a more equitable world.

Through on-site research and the use of digital fabrication technology, I etch images of sprawling development plots, property lines, and streets onto elevated landscape forms. I connect the motifs of residential sprawl to the iconography of the ladder in art history. Specifically, Christian Byzantine icon paintings such as the Ladder of Divine Ascent depict this ladder as part of a precarious journey to a better place, as do recent works such as Martin Puryear’s Ladder for Booker T. Washington. My installations of precarious landmass fragments and delineated, city-like tableaus consider the relationship between “master- planned” suburban residential space and authority, and the way in which these site-agnostic designs are increasingly shaped by external powers.

'Answering Earth' archives 15 artworks displayed in the virtual exhibition Answering Earth— organized by Rural Midwest Artist Collective, with guest juror Jason Brown (@miningthelandscape). The exhibition called for any media concerned with the subject of land-use. 

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