Atelier 33 artist Sandy Hill created her series American Decor during the COVID-19 pandemic as a way to create a connection with the people in her community despite the way our country has been physically and ideologically divided over the past year. Her work is on display in the Griffin Main Gallery until March 26, 2021. We asked Sandy a few questions to learn more about her collection.
Which of these images was the impetus for this series? How did it inform how you completed the series?
I would say the image of the woman with the horse statue was probably the one that captured my heart photographically and got the ball rolling. It was partially hidden by the bushes and seemed humble and worn, like a toy well loved. I also enjoyed the little skeletons and the angel nearby. It is a spot and a house I’ve driven past many times without noticing the horse and it kind of captured my curiosity. While the initial impetus for taking the photos was a purely visual response to interesting items, it became more about the people who lived there.
How has your photography changed since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic? Has the Atelier been a motivator to persevere through these trying times?
I’ve become more cautious about approaching people safely and conscious about keeping distant physically while taking portraits. I knock on the door or ring the bell and step far back and I also don’t spend as much time doing portraits for safety purposes. The Atelier has really been a light for me in difficult times. It made me examine different styles and stretch my visual skills. I had been struggling to find a way to start a project I’m excited about, and thanks to this class, I have.
How is this method of photographing the scenery and people around you different in our current world?
I’ve felt since last spring that people are pausing more, stopping to chat during walks, not as busy and preoccupied. Appreciative of the opportunity to talk to someone in person, something we’ve perhaps taken for granted. Most agreed to my request for a portrait and even those who did not want to be photographed would spend time telling me about their decorations. Many were proud or excited to talk about their art. One man opened his garage to show me his woodworking set up, a mom and daughter told me how they were able to collect free doors to replace the fence that had been falling down, a woman in an apartment in Haverhill had a little Christmas tree and decorations set up on the sidewalk and explained that she does it for the children in the area. The stories were wonderful and varied.
What do you hope we as viewers take away from viewing your work?
That we can find connections even during times that seem to be driving us apart. That even if it’s something as simple as a lawn decoration we can find ways to appreciate one another.
Tell us what is next for you creatively.
I hope to continue with this project for awhile—it’s kind of a treasure hunt of sorts! I have a few people who I will photograph soon and once Covid restrictions aren’t a concern I would like to explore NH and maybe other states too looking for other unique decorations and people. After that—lots of ideas! (Thank you Atelier!)