Since the BP oil well explosion nearly five months ago (only being officially sealed days ago), media coverage of the disaster has repeatedly shown us hazy images of a gushing wellhead underwater, skimmer ships floating along the stained Gulf waters and stretches of sand-filled barricades attempting to protect hundreds of miles of beaches. Even though this picture has been delivered with searing accuracy, what hasn’t been depicted is the incredible damage that has been inflicted onto both the local ecology and the population of the Gulf’s fishing industries. Now a new beautiful and disarming art exhibit hopes to convey a deeper and more textured view of communities in the Gulf Coast, particularly as compared to what has thus far been portrayed in the media. Mired in the Bayou is an art project and upcoming exhibit in NYC which focuses on the struggles of Alabama’s seafood capital Bayou La Batre and its community’s battle to overcome the effects of an oil spill that has managed to pit once proud compatriots against one another for BP’s “free” money.
Bayou La Batre is a small town of approximately 2,500, and has long been known as the seafood capital of Alabama. However, over the past decade, foreign imports, the rising cost of diesel fuel, and overfishing have eroded the seafood industry that supports this community. After Hurricane Ivan and Hurricane Katrina, business slowed even further as residents of the area rebuilt from the ground up. The community was just beginning to recover when the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded. Now, in the aftermath, BP has thrown astonishing amounts of money at this small town, creating divisions in this diverse community. With the seafood industry at a standstill, competition for BP’s money has caused an uglier side of the local identity to emerge, as the same stubbornness that community members take pride in has pit them against each other. Worse still, the influx of money and the subsequent human drama distract from the more ominous reality of what will happen when the oil money stops and the community is still left without its industry and livelihood.
In light of this turmoil, Michael De Pasquale, Reed Young and Erin Sheehy traveled to the small fishing community of Bayou La Batre in July of 2010 to document the effects of the disaster. With their project Mired in the Bayou the triochronicle the lives of ten unique individuals residing in Bayou La Batre, each of whom have been affected by the spill. But rather than unveiling the narrative of a single tragedy, the trio explores a complete community dynamic burdened by repeated catastrophe. Through a distinct three-person perspective, Mired in the Bayou blends the artists’ divergent styles to create a singular portraiture project consisting of twenty photographs and accompanying text and audio. From their efforts arises an arresting juxtaposition of images and text fragments that, as a whole, are able to creating a much more unlikely and much more complete portrait of the lives affected by the BP oil spill.
Artist Graham Holly compliments Mired in the Bayou with an installation that explores the physical condition of the Louisiana coastline on a more intimate scale. As a concerned Louisiana native, Graham ventured to Pass a’Loutre and Grand Isle on June 3rd and June 5th, respectively, with the intent of documenting and unveiling the devastation with a perspective differing from that of the mass media. Graham’s intent was to experience the effects of oil first hand, bringing that experience back to viewers and concerned citizens in New York and abroad. Once reaching the coast at Pass a’Loutre, Graham was met with a headache inducing oil sheen and overtaken by boundless amount of oil – he procured five samples of weathered crude from the beach and water at both Grand Isle, and East Grand Terre. The samples were stored in five gallon paint buckets and then driven to New York to be shown in newly fashioned plexiglass displays five days later on June 10th. Today, theses pieces continue to provide viewers with an opportunity to observe the actual crude emitted from the severed BP oil well head.
OPENING RECEPTION: October 15, 2010, 7-10 PM
LOCATION: 99% Gallery, 99 North 10th, Williamsburg, Brooklyn, NY 11211
A very special thanks to DOT EDITIONS for their support!
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