There is an aspect of the American aesthetic that approaches design like a child. There’s a giddy lack of propriety, a joyful dismissal of taste, a love of big colors and sparkle. It’s connected to our attitude toward wealth, which often equates beauty with prosperity. In other words, if it looks rich, it must be beautiful. The shinier the better. This aesthetic of bling, though, is not simply about playacting at wealth; it’s about becoming lost in a fantasy of layers upon layers of artificiality and imitation. The Versailles that Larry Hart imitated in the Hartland Mansion (Versailles itself the classic contribution to Artifice) was not even the actual Versailles, but an idea of Versailles based on pictures of Versailles in a book and created with the mass-produced materials available to him at craft and hardware stores. All craft is imitation. There are cultures that imitate things they find in nature, or gods, or traditions that go back thousands of years. In America, imitation isn’t just about copying other essential things; imitation is the essential thing, the basis for whatever it is that “American craft” is. Sure, you’ve got exceptions like the Shakers, who designed elegant originals such as the flat-bottomed broom (which is an amazing thing, truly) and the clothespin. But the clothespin never screamed AMERICA! until Claes Oldenburg made a supersized imitation of it in downtown Philly.
more from Stefany Anne Golberg at The Smart Set here.