Election 2020

Four Seasons Total Landscaping becomes high-end diorama art in Berlin

Artist Tracey Snelling, who specializes in multimedia sculpture, said the piece is meant as political commentary.

'Four Seasons Total Landscaping and Fantasy Island Adult Books
2020' (wood, plaster, paint, metal, lights, lcd screen, media player, speakers, transformer)

'Four Seasons Total Landscaping and Fantasy Island Adult Books 2020' (wood, plaster, paint, metal, lights, lcd screen, media player, speakers, transformer)

Courtesy Tracey Snelling
danyahenninger-headshot-2021sept

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The idea has been floated to erect a historical marker in the parking lot of Four Seasons Total Landscaping, where Rudy Giuliani held a Trump campaign press conference between an adult bookstore and a crematorium while the presidential race was being called for Biden.

Marker or not, there’s little doubt the family-owned garden business in Northeast Philadelphia will go down in history.

It’s the focus of a wildly successful charity run, one that’ll likely be repeated. It’s been profiled in multiple newspapers. It attracted Yelp reviews from around the nation. It served as the setting for Saturday Night Live and other late-night TV skits. Its branded merch is one of the hottest gift items of the holiday season.

And now it’s been commemorated in a piece of conceptual artwork that will sell for up to $15,000 on the other side of the Atlantic.

Tracey Snelling is a Germany-based artist who specializes in multimedia sculpture. Using wood, plaster, paint, and electronic components, she creates miniaturized representations of places that convey why they’re worth remembering. Motels are a favorite subject, as are urban vignettes and the interiors of American homes.

Sometimes Snelling sculpts real-life locations, and other times her scenes are an amalgamation, pulled from news reports, stereotypes and other facets of society’s collective consciousness.

Her Four Seasons diorama, completed two weeks after the Giuliani event, is a bit of both.

The sculpture includes video that plays from inside the 'building'

The sculpture includes video that plays from inside the 'building'

Courtesy Tracey Snelling

“Once I saw both the landscaping location and the adult books building, I knew I wanted to build it,” Snelling told Billy Penn. A California native who’d moved to Berlin four years ago, she’d closely followed the drama of the U.S. election.

Like many people reading the news on Saturday, Nov. 7, when the incumbent president tweeted about a press conference at Philly’s “Four Seasons” and then amended his announcement to clarify the location wasn’t the fancy hotel in Center City but a low-slung business on State Road, she assumed there’d been a mixup.

“I had so many questions!” Snelling said. “Who made the mistake, and was it someone on the inside who was really trying to make a joke of it? Who answered the phone? Did the landscaping place charge a lot for the venue?”

Many of those answers didn’t surface until weeks later, when the Siravo family dished to an Inquirer reporter on how exactly the event had landed at their business’ doorstep.

(Apparently, the spot was targeted because it’s easy to get to from I-95; director of sales Sean Middleton took the initial call at 8:45 that morning and met with campaign operatives an hour later; the landscaping biz did not charge a fee.)

Snelling didn’t need to know those particulars in order to construct her representation of the ignominious event.

Though her works are often incredibly detailed, she doesn’t use measurements or try to follow an accurate scale, she said. Things begin with an eyeballed sketch or photo collage, and then get built up from there.

The Total Landscaping sculpture, at 15.5 x 27.5 x 17 inches, is composed of wood, plaster, paint, metal and LEDs. There’s a petite chain-link fence, a concrete wall, a rollup garage door, and lit-up signage for Fantasy Island Adult Book Store and the Delaware Valley Cremation Center.

Inside windows built into the Four Seasons’ parking lot wall, a video of the actual press conference plays, interspersed with scenes of “Borat,” the Sasha Baron Cohen movie that caught Giuliani shoving his hands down his pants.

At 50 years old, Snelling has never been to Philly, but she does have some preconceptions.

“I know that Joe Frazier was in Philadelphia and he was a great boxer. I also like that your Mayor Jim Kenney told Donald Trump he should ‘put his big boy pants on,'” Snelling said.

She’s looking forward to a future visit. “I get the impression that Philadelphians are tough and cool!”

Want some more? Explore other Election 2020 stories.

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