Linda Kuehne Artist Statement
My work explores the cultural implications of the man-altered landscape in suburbs across the United States. I am interested in the role that architecture plays in conveying the spirit of a place and the health of a community.
I grew up in a suburb outside of New York City. Vast housing tracts with no town centers, no aesthetically pleasing architecture; very little culture to speak of–all led to a monotony and deadening of spirit that I wanted to escape. Originally I photographed the suburban landscape as a way to understand my impulse to flee the tight constraints of small-town living.
But it became much more than that for me when the recession hit in 2008. Upscale suburban towns as well as inner cities were hit equally hard. I have been photographing these empty storefronts and abandoned buildings since then. Today I see that the trend continues even though the economy has recovered from the recession. Something else is going on now. The retail industry with brick and mortar buildings is being upended by online shopping. Some very major retailers are going out of business. I have come to realize that I may be on the front line of seeing an “Amazon Effect” where these businesses can’t compete and will be closed forever.
The American Dream isn’t what it used to be. Today things have changed. Rather than the landscape being filled with an endless sea of new, banal construction that started in the 1950’s, the opposite is happening now. This is why I find photographing these buildings so interesting. I believe architecture may well serve as a bell-weather of things to come.