Our Story: Artists Reflect on the Destruction of an Ecosystem

Lately fossil fuel advertisements have been bombarding Western Pennsylvanians with “real” stories of people and families whose lives have changed for the better after dealing with the industry.  Whether the subjects “sold the farm” to drillers (and bought dream condos), or can now afford to retire in style (after leasing their land), what we get is a glazed-over momentary snapshot produced by corporate image-makers.  What we don’t see is the long-term picture revealing contamination of drinking water supplies, destruction of ecosystems, and health issues related to exposure to toxic substances.  These negative effects creep up slowly after the windfall and the photo moments are long past.  Smiling corporate execs (or actors playing them) warmly assure us of the benefits of using the resources under our feet.  We don’t see them discussing the amount of environmental damage (and compensation) that they are willing to take on.  Throughout history, corporations have taken whatever they can get, unless people rally to stop them.

In the neighboring states of Pennsylvania and West Virginia, visual artists have come together to consider the ways in which hasty actions can have disastrous effects on our ecosystems.  In organizing, Reflections: Homage to Dunkard Creek, West Virginia artist Ann Payne was compelled to take a look at the big picture.  Dunkard Creek experienced a total fish kill in 2009. Water from the creek eventually makes it way to Pittsburgh and the Ohio River, a water supply for thousands.

In Reflections, artists from Pennsylvania, West Virginia and beyond were asked to remember the ecosystem of Dunkard Creek by creating renderings of the lost species.  The traveling display of over 90 works (watercolors, oils, etc.) opens September 9th at an art gallery in Morgantown, West Virginia.  The show is also scheduled to travel.  I hope it will generate awareness and positive action.  The long-term health of our country depends on it!

The piece above is my entry in the show, the freshwater drum.  

For more info, please check out the project website:

Reflections: Homage to Dunkard Creek

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