THE OCEANS (project 2015 - present)
THE OCEANS series, sampled here, uses the theme of fish in Still life—common in seventeenth- through nineteenth-century European painting—to highlight current crises of fish populations. To paint a Still Life of a fish today means something very different than it did 300 years ago, namely in the type of species rendered. Here, three codfish. THE OCEANS series is continuing.
The Gulf of Maine cod stocks today are probably only a fraction of 1 percent of what they were during George Washington’s presidency – New York Times, January 1, 2015.
END OF THE PRAIRIE (2014 - 15)
The END OF THE PRAIRIE features one of America’s biggest and yet overlooked environmental disasters: the destruction of the Midwest’s tall-grass prairie. Iowa has some of the most fertile soil in the country, which has attracted unrelenting, large-scale agricultural over the past century. Today, only one-tenth of one percent of the Iowa prairie remains. University of Iowa professor and author Cornelia Mutel, who’s written extensively on the Iowan landscape, describes the transformation of the prairie to farmland as “the most rapid and complete ecological conversion of a major biological system in Earth's history.” Along with the millions of acres of tall-grass prairie, the flowers will go, too. Here, the traditional genre of the flowery Still Life and refashioned it into mourning portraits.
EL CANAL (2015)
These landscape paintings were made along the proposed Nicaraguan Canal Project route. The canal will be three times as long and nearly twice as deep as the Panama Canal. Taking ten years to complete, the project will displace an estimated 30-100,000 people, many of them indigenous. Lake Nicaragua, the largest lake in Central America and home to a species of freshwater shark, will be polluted with 700 million cubic meters of sediment after dredging, poisoning drinking water and decimating the local fishing industries. A 400-square-kilometer artificial lake will flood on the eastern side, in a Biological Reserve.
In total, the project will affect an estimated 4,000 square kilometers of forest, coast and wetlands, including the San Miguelito wetlands, the Cerro Silva Natural Reserve, and the Río San Juan Biosphere Reserve—containing the Los Guatuzos Wildlife Reserve, the Indio Maíz Biological Reserve, and the Solentiname Archipelago. The $50 billion project will be built by the Chinese company HKND, which broke ground in the western town of Rivas on December 22, 2014. Half of all profits from EL CANAL series went to a nonprofit in Nicaragua specializing in providing clean water to citizens. All paintings Oil on board, 8" 10".
IOWA’S UNDERGROUND RAILROAD (2014)
With the help of local historians, I found and documented sites from eastern Iowa’s Underground Railroad. Only a few houses and barns involved in eastern Iowa's Underground Railroad remain--most have been demolished to make way for cornfields, or have fallen into decay. Bound up in secrecy, many sites were never documented, and so forgotten.
America’s western-most free state, Iowa played a critical role for safe passage from Missouri to the Mississippi River and northward after the Fugitive Slave Act passed in 1850. Iowa’s Quaker farmers outfitted their houses with crawlspaces, tunnels leading away from cellars, and, in one case, an entire floor that lifted to reveal a stairway down to secret room. For helping escaped slaves, these farmers were sued, shot at, and threatened. In 1850, a Missouri man sued a group of Salem, Iowa farmers for $10,000 when the Iowans aided nine slaves who had escaped from a farm in Clark County, Missouri.
The first painting of this series shows jars in the basement of a house where abolitionist John Brown slept in 1856. PASSAGE has a double meaning: these sites and the farmers provided safe passage for escaped slaves, and now we are witnessing the passing of those sites themselves as they slip into decay.