After completing three bodies of work that dealt with issues pertinent to Canadians, in 2012 I decided to turn my focus southward, to the United States of America, and produce a suite of digital photographs that explored and exploited this wonderful, aggravating, generous and complex country. To be more specific, I was going to "do to Americans" the same thing I had done to Canadians in my Group of Seven Awkward Moments series. As someone who grew up in the 60's, I was going to subvert the content I had been exposed to as a child/teenager/young adult: the Kennedy assassination, the Apollo space program, the sobering realization that the KKK still exists, the Vietnam War, Watergate, and the NRA.
The template was going to be similar to my earlier work; use famous American landscapes as backdrops and American action figures to provide the narrative.
When I began working on Canadians and Americans (best friends
forever… it's complicated), I was pleased with the first couple of images I produced, as they related to two American icons familiar to us all: Marilyn Monroe and Clint Eastwood. After that though, much to my surprise, things didn't go well. I tried making pieces about other iconic personalities like Elvis and Charlie Brown, but they failed. I was perplexed. I believed I knew American culture. Its presence in my daily life is invasive and ubiquitous. After several months of unsuccessful image making I realized I had to bring something of my own identity as a Canadian back into the work about Americans. I needed to address what it's like living next to a country that barely acknowledges our existence. I needed to insert a subversive Canadian element into the images to act as a foil to the stereotypical American imperialist ego and sense of self-entitlement I was intending to critique.
The underlying impetus with this work is to examine the unbalanced power dynamic that exist in relationships. Canadians and Americans (best friends
forever… it's complicated) acknowledges that, like it or not, we are best friends forever. In order to make these photographs I had to work within the monolith that is American culture, and at the same time, stand apart from it, critically looking in from the outside.