American Mobile Home by Jens Ochlich
8"x8" ($24) | 11"x11" ($60) | 16"x16" ($240) | 24"x24" ($1200)
Jens Ochlich caught sight of this star-spangled stunner while en route up the interstate in San Diego, CA. Hunting it down behind some warehouses, he found the vehicle parked between a number of other RVs—all permanent dwellings. He'd taken note of the new crops of mobile homes popping up along the railroad tracks near his own house, keeping an eye out for the four-wheeled residences, but this particular trailer really captured the photographer’s attention. Needless to say, it also snagged ours. Somewhere between peppy and strangely forlorn, timeless, even surreal, Ochlich's 20x200 debut demanded its spot in our summer art collection...
The product of growing up in Germany, Ochlich’s initial idea of “America” was, it seems, more Americana than anything else—an amalgam of pop culture, attractive otherness, and folkloric ephemera. After nearly two decades living in California, the artist still seeks out the America of his youth, the U.S. of A as he’d seen on the television screen as child. In some ways, it’s a pursuit of the past. Ochlich is more likely to find the threadbare remnants of this particular American Dream than anything resembling it. But there’s a peculiar kind of beauty in these ghosts of nostalgic notions. American Mobile Home is case-in-point.
Painted bold and broad across the entire surface of a trailer, this American flag has a decidedly campy quality, but to dismiss the design as kitsch doesn’t give a complete picture. Ochlich’s image is a nod to those indirect depths, replete with subtle contrasts: the blue, spacious skies of America the beautiful play background to a pavement fore, the vehicle points into shadow, emerging from the bright afternoon light, and (of course) those unmistakable stars and stripes reign supreme on the humble canvas of a trailer. Ochlich’s composition captures it all eloquently.
What struck Ochlich about this scene was the implication of old glory, “like pride’s last resort” the artist wrote, “a shield, war paint, a superhero’s cape”. There's honor in committing yourself to a cause that invites contradiction, whether we’re talking going big with an unexpected gesture of patriotic pride, striving to photograph your childhood perceptions of a place, or actively scanning an awesome image for compelling incongruities. It's a renegade mission—one we're more than happy to join.
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