America at work in modest 'Mowing'
April 13, 2007
"Mowing the Lawn" is one of those great little photo shows that impresses and pleases not through its ambitions but through its modesty, creeping up with a subject that takes on mythic proportions only when we start to study it. In a series of photos of this most mundane yet ritualized of activities, Greg Stimac presents views into the sociology of the middle class and the American work ethic, all set against a backdrop of architectural styles.
The natural, layered staging of house, yard, man -- or woman -- with mower is ready-made theater, pageantry almost. We get a sense of pride of ownership, eccentricities of taste and a wide range of tolerance for clutter and downright mess, not to mention an eye-opening view of the sartorial choices made by the mowers.
Grass-cutting takes on almost ritual meaning in these photos, the act of passing back and forth over a patch of earth -- sometimes no living grass can be seen -- seems here like a rite of possession, an almost animalistic marking of territory. Sometimes shown as meditative, sometimes as fiercely industrious, all Stimac's subjects are serious. There is no irony here, just curiosity and the gentlest kind of humor. The mowers are never made to seem foolish.
Conspicuously absent are those who don't do it themselves but employ the services of landscape gardeners, and these photos make it look like those folks hardly qualify as homeowners at all. For here, mowing the lawn is more than just cutting grass; it's a way of bonding with and wresting order out of that little patch of land one owns.
Greg Stimac, "Mowing the Lawn," Bucket Rider, 835 W. Washington; (312) 421-6993. Through April 28.