America’s decoration frenzy: graveyard cemeteries, ghosts, guillotines, skeletons in coffins, dismembered body parts, giant spiders and creatures turn up on the front lawns and exteriors of suburban homes in America every year. Families across the country decorate and stage their porches and gardens with horrorthemed scenes to celebrate Halloween on October 31st. In 1984, American artist Cameron Jamie started photographing these front exteriors in his old neighborhood in a suburban area of Los Angeles. Even while living full-time in France for the past fifteen years, Jamie continued to travel back to Los Angeles each year, just to continue this photographic ritual. One aspect of what makes these photographs extraordinary is the fact that they were all shot during the day rather than at night, which changes the meaning and whole context of how we normally perceive the horror and death culture surrounding Halloween. Thus, Front Lawn Funerals and Cemeteries is not a book about Halloween, but rather about the opposing tensions of themes and imagery of death staged in these daylight domestic environments, between feelings of something at once very calm, humorous, violent, and uncanny. For the artist, the practice of transforming the suburban home into a cemetery or chamber of horror is a metaphor and form of vernacular art, which he calls “The American Grand Guignol.” The exteriors of these Los Angeles suburban front lawns become theatrical stages which show how death is expressed and perceived in America by the people and, in effect, for the amusement of the people. When real social themes and villains are mixed, merging with the fictionalized worlds of Hollywood horror monsters and real life, the world becomes an even stranger place in which to live. The West Coast sun will never shine the same again.
The artist book Front Lawn Funerals and Cemeteries is numbered.
“The book itself is an exceptionally produced, as is everything on Edition Patrick Frey, complete with glow in the dark cover and gravestone-imitated endpapers. It is a rightful production for such a project, the monochrome images inside becoming pathologically reduced from the myopia of nostalgic affect that color sometimes disables.” Brad Feuerhelm, www.americansuburbx.com, May 2015.