It takes a big heart to love the crappy, unkempt corners of any region, from the ugly/beautiful disarray of abandoned furniture to the unpromising darkness of empty parking lots. It takes an even bigger one to love the garbage-strewn non-places of New England, which is currently home office to so much of small-town America that’s past its useful life and was never pretty to begin with. Sure, they’ve got lighthouses in Maine, boats still sail in Newport Harbor, and the trees in Vermont turn color in the fall, but have you ever been to Lynn? To put it in an idiom that any experienced New Englander ought to recognize, it blows.
Yet the seemingly thankless task of capturing all this senseless doo-doo has found its master in Larry Mills, and his new show at Art Resources on East Haley Street is packed with riveting recent photos of these best-forgotten places. Here is a cemetery that’s next-door to a Hooters; there is a curdled river, its banks littered with old tires. And is it just me, or is that rusty American car sitting in the casino parking lot just begging for somebody to drive it off the nearest cliff?
Moving to Massachusetts and New Hampshire for two years, where the detritus of a failed industrial economy surrounded him, Mills longed to escape the glum monotony of these grimy New England suburbs. Yet a weird fascination with how very not nice these nowhere lands still are and his keen photographer’s eye kept him looking at what was in front of him. These images are the result. Like director David O. Russell, who shot American Hustle in Worcester, Massachusetts, Mills found that certain spots in New England, circa 2013, not only make a believable substitute for 1970s New Jersey but also convey something ineffable and true about the way we live now. Apparently New Jersey doesn’t look bad enough anymore, but Worcester nails it. Mills nails it, too, with just the right touch of redemption shining through these unforgiving glimpses of “lost” America. I’m over here… two years of getting lost in New England is at Art Resources (512 E. Haley St.) through Saturday, March 29. A closing reception will be held from 5-8 p.m. on March 29. Visit artresourcesframing.com.