R. Michael Wommack
This series of pastel drawings, now in it’s tenth year, is based on memories the artist has about his childhood. Recently, he had a dream about swimming in connected pools in the neighborhood where he grew up, Levittown, Pennsylvania. In the dream he was drifting from backyard to backyard. The houses were dark, but the neighborhood was illuminated by the lighted pools. This was strange on several levels. He is not a particularly graceful swimmer, and not many in Levittown had a pool, as the yards are small and the climate is not that favorable for pools, but the color in the dream stayed with him. His family had moved to Levittown in the 60’s when he was 7 years old. At that time the houses were newly built on a landscape that had been gently undulating farmland. The trees were mere sticks, and no one had put up fences. The houses were three alternating colors all the same style, and the visual effect, especially when riding in a car, was profound to a young boy. This scene stretched out, as far as the eye could see, and made a indelible mark on Michael’s memory. It could be that when we are young, our brains are uncrowded. He remembers much from those years living there. Catching praying mantises in the mint gardens and honeybees grazing on clover in the grass are easily remembered, but what he did last week is not so easily recalled. Because of this, he became interested in the idea of the subconscious and working from memory. He pulled his soft pastels out of storage, not having used them for years and started drawing from memory. The pastels turned out to be the perfect medium, the powdered pigment being so pure of color, and the softness of the pastel captured perfectly the feeling of the dream. He is also interested in the fact that most Americans have lived in a place like this at one time or another, and of the social ramifications of living in such a manner. This series continues to evolve, including a new set of interiors. On one level it is about his personal memory of his childhood, but on another level it is about living in suburbia, a uniquely American experience. He wants to keep the drawings elemental and to keep any interpretation ambiguous. He is frequently asked, “do you hate the suburbs, do you love the suburbs?” Michael likes to say he is making beautiful that which we consider ugly and examine what we think of as ordinary.