Artist Climbs Over The “Walls”

May 16, 2018, By Brian Slattery- "A row of red houses, all the same. Beyond that, another row of houses, same as the red houses, but white. A third row of houses, same as the first two except in blue. Everything’s neat and tidy, in primary colors. Safe behind a stockade of popsicle sticks. The wall looks solid. But one stiff breath, and you might be able to blow it down. The piece — titled The New American Dream — lies at the heart of “Walls,” an exhibit of artwork by Liz Antle-O’Donnell that deals with gated communities, in which millions of Americans currently live. Through the details of Antle-O’Donnell’s work, the exhibit, on view now through July 6 in the Ives branch of the New Haven Free Public Library on Elm Street, proves itself adept both at encapsulating the criticisms of gated communities and at playfully moving past those criticisms to ask why people choose to live in them in the first place — and whether they’re getting what they expect. Gated communities began appearing in the United States in the 1980s, as the helpful accompanying text (much of it from the book Fortress America: Gated Communities in the United States, by Edward J. Blakely and Mary Gail Snyder) informs us. The communities typically look like any other more recent suburban development, with the added feature that walls are built around the entire neighborhood. There’s some sort of security, from a swipe card to a guard house, that you need to pass through to enter and exit this neighborhood. As Blakely and Snyder put it, “millions of Americans have chosen to live in walled and fenced communal residential space that was previously integrated with the larger shared civic space…. The phenomenon of walled cities and gated communities is a dramatic manifestation of a new fortress mentality growing in America...”

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