The United States may be immense and immensely diverse, but in Carl Corey’s ongoing series, “Americaville,” disparate pockets of the country seem to coalesce around the same bizarre aesthetic, like they’re neighborhoods in one big, weird town.
“I like that what I see in New York in a strange way has a connection to the same thing in Wisconsin. It’s just a different artifact,” Corey said.
Corey started his project, which he thinks of as a kind of visual op-ed, two years ago, while passing through Abbotsford, Wisconsin. It was Christmas Eve, and the town’s main street, which was decorated for the holidays, was completely deserted. Corey sensed that the image stood for something larger about America, and as he’s traveled through other states—including Kansas, Missouri, and a few states on the East Coast—he’s kept his eyes out for other scenes that seem to speak to the country in general. So far, the images have often featured religious or nationalistic symbols and communicated a sense of loneliness. Corey’s one-liner captions provide extra clues for viewers looking to clarify his perspective.
Despite the lofty mission behind them, Corey’s photographs don’t overwhelm with their seriousness. Indeed, humor is a throughline. A statue of Jesus Christ appears crucified on a flag pole flying the stars and stripes. A painting of Richard Nixon looks demonic in the red glow of the lamp placed below it. On a mini-golf course, a shoddy imitation of L.A.’s iconic Hollywood sign comes across as a satirization of the original.
“I don’t try to be mean or vindictive, but I’ll point out things I think are questionable. A lot of the photographs have to do with icons and what people display and the way they present their ideas. A lot of folks wear their hearts on their sleeves, and they show that by what they put in their windows, in their yards,” he said.
Corey plans to continue the project on a road trip through the American West sometime this year. The series is on display at Santa Barbara’s wall space gallery through March 27.