For my sophomore studio class at the Corcoran College of Art + Design, I
wrote an essay on the kitsch aesthetic of roadside motels and designed
an eight-page article using a combination of my own photography and
Excerpt from my essay:
In her book The Artificial Kingdom, Celeste Olalquiaga describes the kitsch mentality as
“the ability to surpass essential belongings and rest in more superficial ones, to create an imaginary landscape through accumulation and camouflage, and to crystallize the continuous movement of life in the permeable disguise of fantasy.” Contrary to the more common perception of kitsch as something characteristically tacky and trite, Olalquiaga sees kitsch as a vehicle for meaningful transcendence. Kitsch, she argues, can serve as a unique means of expressing the human need for understanding and confining loss through the nostalgic recreation of memories – even imagined ones. This illusory world of kitsch is reflected in the flickering neon of the classic roadside motels which have peppered the American landscape for decades. The promise of such imagined potential memories is expressed with one’s first encounter with these motel exteriors; in truth this is the most important part of a roadside motel in terms of its character. While there are some exceptions, the preponderance of roadside motels opt for homogeneity for their interiors, focusing the uniqueness of their brand on their electrified signage.