In David H. Wells’ Foreclosed Dreams at Providence’s Yellow Peril Gallery, we see the material residue of dreams deferred, if not entirely scuffed out. The photographs, presenting a kind of archeology of the recent past, document houses in limbo, interior spaces gone to seed. Wells captures the home’s transition from the center of private life, a symbol of middle class stability, to one of derelict abandonment. And with the careful attention of an archaeologist, his images reveal a richly textured materiality: the wrinkled surface of packing tape, grout, particles of dust, exposed plaster, the scratches on a hardwood floor. Objects, the things left behind, are often depicted in close-up, the rest of the backdrop blurred—from a collection of gold karate trophies to a red toy telephone to a piece of half-eaten toast on a Styrofoam plate.
The photographs are flooded with feelings of failure and disillusionment. Wells exposes small yet poignant ironies, such as a bad credit score report, a piece of junk mail boldly proclaiming "Home!" and a tract entitled "From Bad Beginnings to Happy Endings," published by the Billy Graham Evangelical Association. In these modern ruins, he also captures textual and visual fragments from former occupants like the walls of hieroglyphs in ancient tombs, such as the cardboard box that reads, "Our Family 4 Ever & Always!!! I love you with all my heart and soul." He gravitates towards the picture-within-the-picture; there is a punctured black and white photograph of a man in a military uniform, a framed school picture in a dirty bowl, a color Polaroid reading," Dee stood on that point for the other pic."
All this is "matter out of place," evidence of interrupted lives, melancholic things that subtly undo the hardy narrative of progress, prosperity, and self-realization represented by home-ownership. In representing the material remains of "foreclosed dreams," Wells estranges us from this national mythos.