Artist Turns Garden Hoses, Toilet Plungers, Rain Spouts Into “Suburban Angst” Art

Lynn Aldrich turns quotidian commodities into colorful statements on our overabundance of stuff and lack of connection.

Artist Lynn Aldrich likes to quote a short story from writer Flannery O’Connor as a source of creative wisdom. “She said, ‘You must find your own country,'” says Aldrich, “meaning that instead of searching for something you think is way cooler than what you’ve got, your best art will come out of what is purely your connection to the world.”


Aldrich, who lives in the Los Angeles suburb of Glendale, took O’Connor’s advice to heart when she found backyard inspiration in the form of the humble garden hose.

“A garden hose has a mind of its own,” Aldrich says. “Anybody who struggles with them in their garden knows it’s difficult material, so I just go with what the hose wants to do.”

The resulting sculptures, featured in the “Lynn Aldrich: Un/Common Objects” exhibition opening October 11 at Alyce de Roulet Williamson Gallery, are intended to embody the artist’s sense of “suburban angst,” as she wryly describes it.

Hose as Pigment

Aldrich rounded up her raw materials on shopping trips to warehouse outlets and hardware stores. “As I collected these beautiful garden hoses I thought about how, through a slight shift, I could make this material resonate with some kind of meaning that transcends its ordinary use.”

Aldrich, who earned an MFA at Art Center College of Design and taught there for 12 years, uses razor-equipped shears to clip hoses into segments that can be manipulated as if they’re pigments. She explains, “I’m like a painter in a way: I have a palette and pick up different colors that I put them next to each other so they have an artistic relationship.”

The Aquatic Life of Cleaning Products

“Un/Common Objects” also showcases rain-gutter sculptures and reef-like constructions assembled from sponges, oven mitts, toilet plungers, and other hyper-vibrant cleaning products. She traces her fascination with biomorphic consumer products to her childhood. “My fantasy growing up was to be a marine biologist so now I’m kind of doing that by going around to 99-cent stores and high-end hardware outlets to buy cleaning implements that can become like sea anemones,” Aldrich says. “The plungers look kind of like suction cups that grip the ocean floor.”


Consumerist Wilderness

Citing the late “Land Artist” Robert Smithson as a key influence, Aldrich operates at the intersection of culture and nature, deliberately avoiding “found objects” in favor of store-bought items. “I use commodities purchased in the marketplace to make a kind of a back-handed environmental statement about how the bounty of nature has been transformed into this bounty of products,” she says. “We live in a culture where we have so much of everything, yet there’s this lack in our human connection. I try to bring that edge to my work.”

About the author

Los Angeles freelancer Hugh Hart covers movies, television, art, design and the wild wild web (for San Francisco Chronicle, Los Angeles Times and New York Times). A former Chicagoan, Hugh also walks his Afghan Hound many times a day and writes twisted pop songs.