Finding art in the mundane is a theme I always return to, and a series of paintings with the evocative title, Cathedrals of Desire, epitomizes how a unique sensibility can elevate the everyday to a transcendent level.
The “cathedrals” in question are those high altars of American consumerism, the Targets and Walmarts and the like that litter shopping malls across the retail terrain like giant repositories of instant gratification. Artist Michelle Muldrow was inspired by a treatise by the philosopher Edmund Burke that equated the sublime with aspects of terror: “My paintings of big box stores are intended to elicit fear and awe at the vast American consumer landscape,” she writes in a statement about the series. “These environments represent not only the actual structural space and overwhelming chaos of goods, but also the psychology and vernacular of American consumerism.”
I was taken with how Muldrow uses splashes of color and light to capture the underlying clamor inside these mammoth structures that “reveal the most naked of American consumer desires,” according to the artist. The unfocused images ironically convey an immediate familiarity, a testament to how deeply ingrained these contours are in the corners of our minds. If the paintings are intended to create uneasiness, they also result in a curious mix of both dread and recognition.
Something to think about the next time I step into that Home Depot…