|Kenneth Steinbach, The Machine in the Ghost, detail|
The United States is a relatively young country, so we've always had a bit of an inferiority complex when it comes to our history and culture. Sure, we have monuments erected, but compared to the Taj Mahal, the Sistine Chapel, the Parthenon, or any of the other ancient relics or artworks treasured in other nations, the U.S. just doesn't have the same scope of cultural heritage.
Perhaps it is that insecurity that brought rise to the idea of "Americana," of things that are supposedly quintessentially American: apple pie, works by Norman Rockwell, drive-in theaters, Ford pickup trucks. It's a term that implies a longing for identity, of nostalgia, and of a sentimental and posed idea of what our country is all about. It's also the title of the exhibition currently on view at the Soap Factory
, curated by executive director Ben Heywood, which includes work by artists deconstructing the term, often using irony to question and prod this glossed-over version of American culture.