Edward Coppola
Artist's Statements
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Photography

These photographs continue my exploration of houses and outbuildings in and around Staten Island and Brooklyn. This work connects very personally to how the architecture speaks to me.

Many of the homes have tiny windows and forbidding doors. The little windows resemble gunports in a fortress. Moats are replaced by large fences with signs warning of menacing dogs. Some of the homes are in the process of being remodeled, and are stripped down to tarpaper or insulation. The architecture lacks the softening features of landscaping, molding, trim, or shutters. The sheds and garages seem especially mysterious. They are places where things are hidden from view or held before being discarded.

The more I observe these houses and sheds, the more I feel that they are an architecture of alienation. A sense of isolation and estrangement persists even in such a densely populated area. If the house can be seen as a symbol of, or stand-in for, its human inhabitants, the symbolism can extend to the physical barriers -- the fences, walls without windows, and warning signs -- that separate the houses from their neighbors. Are these visible emblems of unease exaggerated by my own sense of paranoia, or are these disquieting feelings endemic to our times?

Store-bought decorations to celebrate holidays such as Valentine's Day or Presidents' Day appear on some of the houses. Often a row of houses will display identical holiday cut-outs. These decorations, seen with toys left outside, a stripped basketball hoop, or a child's playhouse, evoke a sense of pathos. I see these bits of evidence of human habitation as statements of hope even in the strangeness of their surroundings. Perhaps this view is a projection of my own need for hope.

I am intrigued by and want to photograph the jumbled geometry and dizzying convergences of vinyl siding, chain-link fencing, and telephone wires. I see a richness in the subtle tones and network of cracks in aged concrete. Sometimes I see a stillness and a beauty amid the clutter. The formal shapes of architectural structures in the glancing sunlight sometimes come together in a classical perspective -- a little garage sits serenely amid large houses; a satellite dish or a fencepost captures the light in a sculptural way.

Walker Evans's studies of American architecture have been an influence on this series, as has the work of Lee Friedlander, which has shown how Americans reveal themselves and their beliefs through their self-made environments. I am also interested in Edward Hopper's use of the play of light and shadow on architectural forms to reveal a mood.

These photographs walk a thin line between an appreciation of documentation and description, and a visual enjoyment of the formal qualities of two-dimensional design. As I seek to maintain the balance and subtlety that this requires, it is my hope that a personal sense of poetry has emerged.

Sculpture and Collage

My sculptures feature strange, cavelike formations as a kind of stage on which metal trophy figures, bride-and-groom wedding cake decorations, superhero action figures, and other pop-cultural debris seem to act out life-or-death dramas. The landscape formations and backgrounds are carefully painted. The found objects have been subtly altered and electrical lights are hidden around the scene to heighten the sense of anxiety and disquiet.

My collages incorporate found images and small natural objects such as seeds into my painted depictions of the connections between inner and outer universes. These works on paper complement my diorama sculptures both visually and conceptually.

I have found the diorama format and the painted collages to be an intriguing way to merge my interests in painting and sculpture. My many influences include Renaissance, Expressionist, Symbolist, and Visionary painters, early science fiction movies, fairy tales, vintage children's book illustrations, the displays at the Museum of Natural History, and the homemade grottoes for religious statues that I saw in my Brooklyn neighborhood as a child. In my work, I try to recapture the thrill and sense of wonder that these influences evoked in me.

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