Requiem for the Salton Sea

Requiem for the Salton Sea, consists of (50) 6×6″ cyanotype prints on paper, and (1) 72×44″ cyanotype print on silk. Both were co-created with the Salton Sea as it communicated its experience of the Anthropocene. Land degradation and receding shoreline due to human activities in its watershed continue to destroy this ecosystem.

Silk and paper were painted with an eco-friendly UV sensitive coating prior to arrival.
The silk was draped over car tires recently exposed as the shoreline receded. Parts of
the silk mixed with damp algae.

The process was a memorial, the completed works a requiem, myself a
funeral conductor.

Background world: The Salton Sea is a saline lake located in the southeastern desert of California. This ecosystem is home to five endangered species, numerous sensitive species and literally millions of migrating and wintering water birds. Due to the significant loss of wetlands in California, this ecosystem is one of the most important for birds flying the Pacific Flyway and supports some of the highest levels of biodiversity. It is now in its hospice stage due to increasing salinity, water quality issues, temperature, and eutrophication resulting in increased algae and bacteria known as dead zones. As I write this only two species of fish remain and I am informed by a local ranger that they will die off before the end of the year. The collapse of the ecosystem means extinction for a number of species. In October 2019 Imperial County declared the Salton Sea a state of emergency and major public health crisis.

To be with this extraordinary landscape is as surreal as it is heartbreaking. My time hear is filled with wonder at the radiant beauty that defies the human impact that created this catastrophe. Beauty is truly a warrior defeating disparity and opening space for the final transformation into formlessness and memory. I feel love, grief, loss, and the presence of the miraculous. The entire shoreline is made of death. I stand on bones both beautiful and filled with the memories of lives lived migratory and transient.

“A shrinking Salton Sea could expose its toxic-coated bottom to wind storms, posing a major air pollution hazard… Salton Sea mud contains enough arsenic and selenium to qualify for disposal in a dump reserved for the most toxic of society’s trash.

Requiem for the Salton Sea…The End

Requiem for the Salton Sea…The End, black and white photographs taken with a Holga 120N, developed in Caffenol, fixed in Sea Salt, printed as postcards, and mailed to galleries to spread the message.

Background world: Returning to the Salton Sea one year later, I found the ecosystem had indeed collapsed. It was no longer in its hospice stage. It was sad and deserted…empty of birds, fish, and life. The shoreline had receded significantly since my last visit, revealing hundreds of car tires that had been dumped into the sea long ago. The toxic dust lifted effortlessly into the air. My nose began to bleed a half hour after my arrival. This is the legacy we leave in our wake, 100 tons of toxic dust per day lifted into the air forever.

Salton Sea mud contains enough arsenic and selenium to qualify for disposal in a dump reserved for the most toxic of society’s trash. Chromium, zinc, lead and pesticides, including DDT, are also in the lake bottom.