Requiem for the Salton Sea
Self-guided, site-specific, research inclusive studio residency, Salton Sea, California Colorado Desert.
June 1st, 2019 – February 1st, 2020
Cyanotypes in process at the Salton Sea.
The algae is a non-beneficial similar to the red tide algae in the Gulf of Mexico. It sucks oxygen out of the water and on land killing fish and birds as well as local land animals and reptiles. The algae strips birds wings of their natural water repelant and many either drown or make it to the shore and find they can no longer fly.
It’s surreal, the beauty of this place and the deep sorrow that accompanies it.
Salton Sea, California landscape paintings co-created with the natural world as it communicates its experience of the Anthropocene at the Salton Sea where land degradation and receding shoreline the result of human activities in its watershed continue.
“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.” www.sci.sdsu.edu
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 waterbirds. Due to the significant loss of wetlands in California, this ecosystem is one of the most important wetlands 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 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 beautiful and filled with the memories of lives lived migratory and transient.
Process: The process was a memorial, the completed works a requiem, myself a funeral conductor.
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. 50-6×6” paper pieces were set to drift at the waters edge. Salinity, bones, toxic dust, and algae danced with the paper.