ABOUT THE EXHIBIT
Air and water entering abandoned coal mines in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania mix with pyrite exposed in the mineshafts and oxidize the iron found therein. When this acidic rust bleeds into adjacent streams it coats their beds in a thick layer of orange ochre known locally as yellow boy. The displacement and transformation of this vibrant mineral is the subject of this series of drawings.
The concentration of iron oxide in several of the streams I visited in the Susquehanna watershed is so great that the precipitate can be harvested and used as a pigment. I scraped small quantities of the solid from rocks along the streambank and returned to the studio to draw. The mineral is, thus, twice displaced: first from its entombment underground, and again from the rivers it brightly and catastrophically colors.
Some of the drawings exhibited here deploy iron oxide diluted with water to tint the paper’s fibers. Others preserve the pigment’s grain by layering mineral and adhesive over and over until a thick cake of material coats the page as it does the riverbed. And in several drawings a piece of plywood is dipped in iron oxide solution and pressed into the paper.
The resulting stamps are unique: a result of inconsistencies in both the composition of the iron and the grain of the plywood.
Iron oxide’s toxicity is contingent on context and concentration. These drawings negotiate the beauty of the mineral’s hue and the impact of its dislocation. Each drawing probes a fundamental condition of the ecological devastation occurring in Pennsylvania: despite remediation efforts, local experts believe many tributaries of the Susquehanna River will run orange for the next 250 years.