Stemming from a body of work that explores boundaries and territories, the “Turf Series” looks into the ways suburban home owners and their proxies, the omnipresent gardeners, leave their mark on their terrain. I document front lawns focusing on the lines that mark where one property ends and another begins.
Despite often unfavorable conditions, it is remarkable that we spend the effort and over $30 billions a year, not to mention obscene amounts of water and petrochemicals, to cultivate approximately 50,000 square miles of lawn across America. After all, the lawn grass is not even a native of our land, but originally imported from Europe to feed the livestock of pioneering pilgrims. On an aesthetic level, surrounding ones’ property with well maintained grass is a blatant remnant of the motherland. If the out of sight estate lawns in England were symbols of class, wealth, sophistication and exclusiveness, as Michael Pollan of Harper’s Magazine points out, the Americans democratized lawns by turning them into neighborhood spectacles and symbols of the middle class realizing the American dream.
After the American Civil War, influential landscape architects such as Olmsted laid out a utopian vision of suburbia as an egalitarian institution with open and unfenced lawns that flow unhindered to one another, obscuring the boundaries between homes and contributing to a sense of community of equals. To maintain ones’ portion of this landscape is still understood as a civic duty, at times reinforced by city mandates. Not all need their arms twisted to perform an almost ritualistic practice of lawn maintenance since it ironically allows them to mark their territory, validate their social standing and affirm their virility by imposing their will over nature.
In “Turf Series” I photograph front lawns to examine how contemporary reality meets or defeats the original utopian vision. I study how contemporary landowners cultivate their lawn to conform to the code, use their patch to express individuality or try to juggle both. If the lawns were meant to signify the American ideals back in the modern age, what do they say about us now in the post-modern era?