Archive for January, 2009

Until the endThe Holga Camera-  Its a cheap plastic toy camera with surreal and unpredictable results.   It distorts perception and image perspective.  It leaks light into the camera body, resulting in light streaks and sometimes spotty, uneven exposure.   In the end, these imperfect images either work beautifully or come out disastrous.

I have the privilege of being asked to play with one of these beauties and display my inspirations in the all-too-soon upcoming show, the Holga Polka Invitational.   I invite you all to see wonderful works of art created with inspiration from dancing the Polka with the Holga Camera.    The show will run from Friday, Jan. 9th 2009 until February 22nd.    The opening reception, featuring a live polka band will be Friday the 9th from 5:30 PM until 7:30 PM.   There will also be a gallery talk on Wednesday, January 28th at 6:30PM.

I have two works in the show from the Carrollton series:   Both images are self-portraits titled, ‘Until the End’ taken in front of one of my favorite homes, the last house on Chartley Drive that recently burned down.   The photograph is a double-exposure black and white 120 size film, 11×14 sized print.   The other work is a painting I did based from the composition of the photograph.     In the words of the curator and Holga guru Mark Fisher:  Its a wonderful, wonderful show.   Come check it out!   More info from the RFT here.

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Six houses were taken down the week of December 15-22nd.   They were finishing removing the foundation of the last one on Gladwyn on Dec. 23rd, and began asbestos removal on Brampton by then.   Since this was an insanely busy week for me (and an insane holiday season),  I did not record the actual dates individually.   However, all 6 have been demolished within that week.

The six houses, two on Gladwyn and four on Pont, were all that remained of the subdivision south of 270.   All six of these houses had undergone a complete asbestos removal treatment including stripped of drywall down to bare studs.

All four homes on Pont were boarded up years ago back when they actually bothered to board up the vacated houses.   They stopped that practice around 2003 and let the vacant houses sit with broken windows, and the rest of the conditions we have seen.   Over time, those boards started to deteriorate due to environmental damage and brave the more braver vandals.   Overall, the houses on Pont were fairly safe from vandals thanks to their proximity and visibility to Natural Bridge and the Bridgeton Police Station and City Hall, as well as the still-occupied Carrollton Apartments.   I too didn’t stick around long enough for people to ask questions when I went over to this section of the neighborhood, but I really liked these houses and took photos when I could.   They were from the earliest Carrollton style, most having basements and other personalized accoutrements added to the exteriors.    With a bit of gingerbreading, seemingly more personalized yet sophisticated color choices, and updated interior styles beyond the year 1990 told me that their owners were probably holdouts who did not want to move.  These were some of the houses that were waiting for their fates in the court system, otherwise they would have been taken a long, long time ago.   Despite their broken, gray, rotten boards dangling and the broken windows they once concealed, they were the last pretty poster-children for what remained of the former Carrollton.

4229 Pont was the house closest to the runway that remained the longest.   One of my most favorite, most iconic compositions was taken with this house in the foreground in the shadow the the runway dominating  the background.   The house together with the runway signified in one frame all that happened in the last couple decades.  I didn’t go inside this house for years, but once the boards had fallen away and sunlight rushed in, I too wandered in and felt a bit of coziness.  What amazed me most was how a forgotten welcome mat remained in the same exact place before the front door for over five years.   A thin little brown mat sat ready to greet anyone as if time was not present.   It was unattached to the house physically, yet very much a part of the space as the wallpaper inside.   The little welcome mat was an element of humanity, in that you can tell that this was a place where a human had an emotional attachment with.   After over a year of any occupants in Carrollton, its easy to forget that these houses were loved, especially when you just drive by it and see them simply as wasted shells.  When you notice tiny details like this, that’s when you realize how important this place once was to someone.

4197 Pont was a beautiful green house with very pretty trees and lovely bushes in the yard.  This house had some personalization too, and it was the last one  in this area that I can remember in its prime.   Not exactly sure why I remember this place, but I do remember as a kid really liking the color and the shape of this house, as well as being impressed with its height on a hill.   It made the house appear larger, despite having the wonderful trees shade the yard.   I really just liked it.   It was beautiful inside and out.

The next green house on Pont did not have an identifyable # on the exterior.   418x or 417x are reasonable guesses.  I never went into this house until shortly before the asbestos crew came in and did their work.  Once they removed the plywood, the curiousity got to the best of me.  This place was almost too perfectly planned, with the living room window facing warm afternoon sunlight with just the right amount of patches of shade from the tree outside dancing on the floor with the sun’s glow.    The kitchen window faced out towards the west, watching countless sunsets before dinner’s preparation.   The house had laundry chute- something I wished our house had when I was a kid.   There was something very cool about this house, something that made me wish our house was more like this one.  This one, like all the rest on Pont was untouched with grafitti until its final days.

Although I was not brave enough to go inside this and the rest of the houses on Pont for years, I did keep my eye on these places and I took a fair # of shots of them before their demolitions.   So, I was exceptionally surprised when, quite randomly one day I drove past this house and had to turn around to double-check what I thought I saw.   In the neighboring yard yet very close to this house, a small homemade clay statue of a little girl had been placed in a circular garden of Engish ivy.   This statue only appeared last October and still remains there as of this writing, even with the destruction of the house.    I can only think about what this garden marker’s purpose is, and that this tiny tribute could be for something very solemn and sad.    Or, it could just be someone randomly leaving  homemade statues about.

4142 or 4124 Pont was a house so close to normal civilization that I did not dare to go near or inside it until after its asbestos removal was done, and enough trees have grown up around it mask myself inside.   This house was near the corner of Pont and Gladwyn and was covered in mud from the front yard.   The yard never seemed to be in good shape, and much of that was owed to this house acting as refuge for groundhogs.   Almost every time I drove by this place, one of these brown furry creatures were scurrying around the yard and would dive into their den just below the front walkway.  The front door was covered and caked with layers of muddy paw prints.   Something about entering  the home of a clan of groundhogs did not seem safe to me, so I stayed away.  Interestingly enough, this was the first house that had the asbestos treatment fully done, and I was so amazed at the webwork of 2x4s that kept our homes standing.   With all the walls gone, and nothing more than sunbeams and wood beams filling the interior, the space felt rather constricted and small, despite being a three bedroom home with a basement.     The one thing I loved the most about this home was the planks of wood driven into the tree in the front yard, leading to a long-absent treehouse.   The planks of wood again added that human element to this home.   The backward featured a neat little waterpond that had overgrown with ivy with time.

I’ll update this and write about the Gladwyn houses shortly.   I am also currently working on an update about the asbestos removal.  I have actually learned information that is quite surprising from the area’s asbestos inspector and a very kind man, Mr. Rick Whitney, whom spoke with me a week or so ago about the current asbestos removal.  One of the surprising facts I learned is that just because water was used in the demolition process (such as the process done on my own home in the photo above) did not necessarily make the demolition a ‘wet-method’ demo, as many of us had thought.  100 homes in the area are at fault at being an improper ‘wet-method’ demo in response to asbestos containment.   I am still doing a bit more research on this as well, reading the documents from the recent court case,  and will post about this matter and more of my enlightening disucssion with Mr. Whitney later.

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New signs at Lambert

It does indeed look as though the houses are going to be completely gone within the month… February at the latest.   I may even get the schedule of the last house going down if I keep my fingers crossed.

They are planning to put up three ‘sculptural’ (their word) signs in strategic locations to ‘enhance’ visitor image and appeal to more potential travelers.

From the January 1st, 2009 Post-Dispatch article:

Two of the monument signs would feature entry sculptures towering about 40 feet, with a painted aluminum replica of the airport’s logo — an airplane flying past the Arch. The airport’s name would appear on an accompanying sign.

“This will be very distinguished looking, very professional,” Hrabko said. “It will put a branding type of situation on the airport, which it does not have right now.”

I saw a photo from the original article of the sign, but it since seems to have been removed.   Basically, it looks like a cutout of their logo in cast aluminum or bronze, in a circle, atop a converging shape that narrows at the bottom, making the overall sign look like a decorated spoon.  It could be aesthetically appealing and modern in appearance, if it were the year 1970.   Unfortunately, Lambert did not even bother to update the boring arch/wing logo, and instead decided to use it in their latest image and marketing catastrophe.   Projected price tag:   $600,000 + and listed as part of a $100 million dollar makeover project.

It doesn’t seem as if the “if we build it, they will come” mantra is working.   Maybe the solution is to keep building, adding, decorating?     What the airport has failed to realize, all along, is that its not THEM… its St. Louis in general.   When it city is not doing well, the travelers to and from will not come.

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