A photographic trip through America’s roadside façades

A photographic trip through America’s roadside façades

In her ongoing series, The Mother Road, Hayley Eichenbaum documents the tainted romanticism of roadside architecture on Route 66 in the American Southwest

There’s a cinematic quality to Hayley Eichenbaum’s The Mother Road, a staged seduction that feels more fitting for a screen than reality. 

Indeed, cinema was one of Eichenbaum’s key influences for the project, specifically the work of Stanley Kubrick. ‘The cinematography and the way he uses geometry is so enticing. I aim to present scenes reminiscent of the classic silver screen. Yet the images are vacant of characters, evoking a sense of mystery and perhaps unsettledness.’

Eichenbaum, who is planning to release a book next year, is an artist who knows the American highway system inside out. She’s driven the iconic Route 66 – which runs from Chicago to Santa Monica – eight times in the last seven years, becoming ‘addicted’ to the roadside vernacular of the American Southwest. ‘As I slowly made my way along the oldest highway in America, I became attracted to its colourful architecture. It was pretty spectacular to view these structures among the drastically varying climates.’ 

Tee Pee Curios the mother road
Tee Pee Curios

The Mother Road: an American dream on the cusp of decay

The Mother Road is titled after a nickname for Route 66, also holds personal resonance for Eichenbaum. ‘It also became the road that literally connected my mother and me when she was battling ovarian cancer. I would drive the route with my dog from LA to the Midwest, and back again, during her treatment. While I don’t focus much on my driving, there is a literality to the title The Mother Road.’

In Eichenbaum’s images, there is an uncanny lack of human presence, but comfort in the roadside neons glow and beckon. Her subjects, pastel-coloured, modernist and minimal; an American dream on the cusp of decay, symbolise a bygone golden era for Route 66.

hayley eichenbaum sanbernardino, the mother road
San Bernardino

‘The route presents a fading nostalgia that inspires me to document its ever-changing landscape. This part of American society is threatened by capitalism and mass chains, like everywhere else in the world. It’s disheartening to see our surroundings become more homogenous as a result.’

The Mother Road, which Eichenbaum began in 2014, is currently on view at the new online-first gallery Homecoming, which aims to make photo art collecting more accessible, diverse and exciting. The online show has been curated by Holly Fraser, director of content at WePresent, and will also be on view during the Amsterdam Affordable Art Fair (until 31 October 2021).

Eichenbaum’s work is the latest in a series of curations for Homecoming by industry experts. Recently, Wallpaper’s own photography director, Holly Hay, took the reins on a curation for the gallery, which spotlighted work by rising star photographers Deo Suveera and Hugo Yu. §

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