Date of Award

Spring 5-20-2022

Author's School

Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts

Author's Department

Graduate School of Art

Degree Name

Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in Illustration & Visual Culture

Degree Type



This essay provides a critical look at the motel, investigating it as a souvenir, exploring its nostalgic phenomenon, and questioning its complexity of comfort. We begin by looking at the evolution of the motel and how its strange stereo- type came to be. I dissect the terms “shady” and “sketchy” as both a psychological and illustrated representation of the motel while closely reading how these terms appear in other forms of media, such as Bates Motel and Bad Times at the El Royale. Through exploring nostalgic Americana, I investigate how motels connect us from the past to the pres- ent through their efforts to be a kitschy time-capsule that helps us reminisce the “good ole days.” I also analyze how motels are considered souvenir symbols by looking closely at their structure and commodified intent. Throughout the essay, I connect these ideas and my thesis project American Standard, a visual essay consisting of illustrations and short comic narratives that all occur at a southwestern Missouri motel over one day. From traveling for cancer treatment to suicide to running away from home, hypothetical realities, far from comforting, glamorous, or sleek, illustrate themselves to be entirely possible and even painfully relatable for some. Looking at the motel’s successes and failures as a symbol of a souvenir, nostalgia, and a means of comfort, we conclude with how we should perceive them today. As their popularity begins to die, their context becomes more valuable to us. What does this mean next for preservation and the hospitality industry?



Program Chair

John Hendrix

Included in

Illustration Commons