“In Defense of Home” explores the search for personal narrative derived from the experiences of growing up on military bases throughout the United States. Muldrow hunts and gathers found photographs, personal family albums, maps, and internet searches, circling around classified sites, blocked street views, decommissioned locations creating taxonomic structures of images. Each emplotment reveals elements significant to the processes of making meaning from an intentional paucity of information. Memory and the gathered information become paintings that are organized into conceptual systems to better understand the experience of home.
Muldrow experiments in her process to define her experience of “home.” Muldrow paints images sourced from Google maps, notating the longitude/latitude and intersections that lead to one of her childhood homes on Edwards Air Force Base (AFB) in the desert of Southern California. The maps and roads that lead to Edwards AFB are taken from Google streetviews and satellite maps until they reach the restricted government zone, the borders of Edwards Air Force Base. Each map in the digital world bounces back onto surrounding roads around the military black-out zone. Mapping to find “home,” this truncated search reveals that the awareness of space becomes wholly dependant on the knowledge of the relationships in the space.
Muldrow then searches for her narrative in literal imagery. Using representations of military bases and the banal juxtapositions of on-base parks, military jets as monuments, churches, watchtowers, white picket fences and security fences, Muldrow examines how each piece fits into a planned model of American community within a military environment, an environment completely controlled by the government. Muldrow explores how visual imagery can express these ideas using representational images, patterns, and military iconography: juxtaposing symbols of comfort with symbols of security.
Schematically organizing elements in the search for significance, Muldrow reveals a candid glimpse of an America that is a complex arrangement of manipulated elements within a universal experience, the experience of home.
Cathedrals of Desire
Cathedrals of Desire (2010-2014)
“Cathedrals of Desire” investigates the experience of the repulsion and seduction of the American landscape. The paintings of big box stores are intended to elicit fear and awe at the vast American consumer landscape. This body of work incorporates the landscape painting tradition with the adopted Sublime of the influences of Bierstadt and Manifest Destiny that has become an overriding element of American identity. This is also reflective of the contemporary as well as historical implications of what those ideals of Manifest Destiny and consumerism represent.
Muldrow applies philosophical ideas to American landscape painting, using historical precedents and imbuing the contemporary experience to reach an understanding of America. In this body of work, the contemporary is an important factor. Muldrow’s goal is to isolate that interstitial moment when the critical interpretation of an interior space becomes the emotional experience of landscape. Searching for that moment when the assessment of information succumbs to the overwhelmed state of emotions and when the cultural critique becomes an experience independent of the imagery.
The embrace of the Sublime is inspired by the theories of Edmund Burke’s treatise on the Sublime and its relationship with terror. This, paired with the concept of the divine power of the Sublime, heavily influenced the depiction of these consumer spaces as Cathedrals of Desire. These environments represent not only the actual structural space and overwhelming chaos of goods, but also the psychology and vernacular of American consumerism. The obtrusive massive structures built with no attempt at aesthetic beauty reveal the most naked of American consumer desires. Cathedrals of Desire is an attempt to respond to this landscape by obviating the contrast between the mundane and the dramatic; the absurd experience of both comfort and the profane.
A reference point is Thomas Cole’s painting “Oxbow.” His intent in “Oxbow” was to protest the loss of the wilderness in North America, yet to the viewer today, the dramatic wild vista and the beautiful pastoral farmland reads as a romantic beautiful landscape. When does that moment come when an emotional state overrides the critical and the critical is no longer part of the dialogue? Muldrow paints that moment.
Relic of Landscape
Relic of Landscape (2006-2009)
The Relic of Landscape series developed from a need to understand Rust Belt America, using landscape painting genre as a historical and social launching point. Michelle Muldrow began the series Relic of Landscape , following her relocation from San Francisco, California to Cleveland, Ohio. This landscape abruptly challenged her with its Rust Belt allure and faded grandeur, a sumptuous seduction, while it contrasted with the stark reality of a region in chronic economic decline. Surrounded by ruin and relics of a golden industrial past now long gone, Muldrow found herself in a place burdened by its own history.
Confounded by the desire to paint these ruins, Muldrow sought to understand how this exquisite and once thriving region declined so dramatically. Adopting the compositional strictures of the aesthetic movement, the Picturesque, and utilizing the theories of William Gilpin and Claude Lorrain, Muldrow applied them to contemporary Cleveland landscapes.
Muldrow conversed within the confines of the Picturesque, as a historical departure point, Presenting decaying factories and overgrown brownfields as “ruin”, Muldrow embraced the impulse to romanticize “ruin,” using its aesthetic format as a seductive tool and also as a social commentary. The juxtaposition of the arbitrary aesthetic rules of the Picturesque against the stagnant and looming shadows of these old industries mirrored the frustrations of the Rust Bet,using an outdated lens to paint a region,desperately holding on to its older industries and value system, crushed by its own burden of history.
Un-Exported Los Angeles
‘Un-Exported L.A.’ begins with an exploration of historical imagery of the American West and how it relates to the philosophies of the sublime and the exporting of the Manifest Destiny as American mythology. Unexported L.A. is a series influenced by the 19th century embrace of a majestic frontier, the adaptation of artists such as Frederic Church, Albert Bierstadt and Thomas Moran into American consciousness that set an aesthetic prototype and then devolved into the open spaces of desolate capitalism captured by The New Topographics photographers. The grand gestural vistas of California that once evoked the hand of God transformed into the overwhelming untenable nature of man. Los Angeles is the machine that churns out the imagery of national identity, yet the actual entity of Los Angeles is foreign to America. These paintings represent the influx of immigrants, an explosion of cultures, a Los Angeles that exists beyond any mode of attempted homogeneity. Living in the shadow of myth, the un-exported Los Angeles represents that most global, international and sprawling vista of all American cities. The sublime is not the majestic hand of God, but the impact of man.
Memory of the L.A. Billboard
This body of work was created specifically for the "Memory of the L.A. Billboard;Telepolis in the Archetype" group exhibition at Koplin Del Rio Gallery, Los Angeles,CA. John Berger said that publicity has to sell the past to its future. These paintings represent the intrusion of the present. While government and commerce has always had a role in reining in, controlling and designing the sprawling body of Los Angeles, it is despite these controls and influences that LA reveals itself. Los Angeles is its own entity. It is an influx of immigrants, an explosion of cultures, it is Hollywood, street culture, it exists beyond any mode of attempted homogeneity. A billboard is a sign, archetypal in its promotion of product in bright, technological advert, a corporate graffiti, and representing a culture of cars and mythic ideals speaking to the motorists driving by. These paintings reveal a dialogue, a commentary, the blank slate, the graffiti, the indelible marks made by the inhabitants of Los Angeles that envelop, overwhelm and congregate beyond what Los Angeles is able to control.
Edge Cities and the Exurban Environment
Edge Cities and the Exurban Environment is the body of work that encompasses Muldrow’s interests in urban and suburban planning, land use research and environmental concerns and how our experiences with these mundane spaces resonate with familiarity and nostalgia. The purposeful painting of these abundant alienating non-communities in a beautiful manner became an interesting study in how placemaking, home, and landscape is perceived through the lens of familiarity.
Available Work for Sale
Limited deals on older works, studies, developmental work and sometimes a surprise.
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Interior/Exteriors Art for Public Space
Commercial art for interior design and corporate space. Muldrow’s paintings reside in the public collections of Microsoft, Cleveland Clinic, California Cryobank, Hi-Dive Restaurant,San Francisco, and Louis-Dreyfus Art Collection. Commissions accepted.
Before It Is Gone; Documenting Neighborhood
This body of work is a love letter to Portland. Developers are rapidly buying up small homes, businesses and vacant lots and turning them into monolithic condos with pricetags to match and the sad irony is this machine of development, gentrification and economic boom erases what attracted people to Portland in the first place. While economic health is valuable for a city to survive, capitalism and its relationship with community is fraught with conflicts and conundrums. I do not know the answers. I paint, I observe and I document and I hope to share the small things I love about this city.