A Tribute to the Campy Plastic Pink Flamingo

Click here to view the Flamingo Photo Project slideshow.

Production of the original plastic pink flamingo, designed in 1957 by Don Featherstone, ceased in June, 2006, just shy of its 50th birthday. Its manufacturer, Union Products of Leominster, Mass., closed the factory.

The plastic pink flamingo proliferated front yards during the spread of American suburbia. Labeled by art critics at the time as lowbrow kitsch, the popular mid-century lawn ornament was elevated to iconic status 50 years later, blurring the lines between kitsch and high art.

It journeyed from symbolizing a tropical Florida paradise, to the epitome of bad taste, to challenging boundaries of high art in avant-garde galleries, to a transgressive decoration outlawed in gated communities and finally to a revered pop culture icon.

For this project people visiting Art Basel Miami Beach international art fair were invited to were invited to pose, without prompting, with the plastic pink flamingo for a formal portrait. I set out to examine the relationship between the subjects and the object – a study of socio-psychological behavior, if you will, and to feed my playful curiosity.

I attempted to document visceral reactions as well as deliberate poses. Some participants personified the object, exhibited behaviors of maternal instincts and even predation. Others simply treated it as an inanimate prop, creatively posing with it to distinguish themselves.

The resulting portraits are subtle and dramatic. They reveal the participant's personality, fashion trends, vocation or even ideals but not necessarily the subject's social status.

The plastic pink flamingo icon induces equality, blurring the lines between proletariat and beau monde. Perhaps a parallel to contemporary American society. -- Jacek Gancarz.

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