Here in Vermont, in an effort to protect Lake Champlain and other waterways, a bill, which restricts the sale and use of fertilizers that contain phosphorus and nitrogen, was passed last week in the House and now moves to the Senate.
The bags of fertilizer I see sold at Agway seem pretty benign, but after viewing J. Henry Fair’s collection of photographs, titled Industrial Scars, showing devastation caused by fertilizer production, I am posting them here to further the conversation.
Personally I have a hard time visually reconciling that the fascinating textures and lush colors in Fair’s images represent environmental degradation. I can’t quite bring myself to see them as ugly even though I know that what I do see is wrong. I found myself compelled to use them for color palette inspiration.
Of his work, J. Henry Fair says, “As an artist with a message, one asks oneself: how do I translate my message to my medium such that it will effect the change I want?
At first, I photographed “ugly” things; which is, in essence, throwing the issue in people’s faces. Over time, I began to photograph all these things with an eye to making them both beautiful and frightening simultaneously, a seemingly irreconcilable mission, but actually quite achievable given the subject matter.”
He continues, “The word “fertilizer” evokes a pastoral image of grazing cattle transforming a sun-drenched field of grass into nutrients for crops, beckoning us back to simpler times. However, the super-productive modern agricultural system is fed by mineral phosphate, the principal American source being Florida, where its strip-mined extraction devastates vast areas of undeveloped wildlands, and ends with a dead zone in the ocean, where it finally comes to rest after wreaking havoc on the soil, watersheds and ecosystems in its path. “
“The process of making phosphate fertilizer begins with the surface mining of phosphate. Large areas are overturned to obtain the phosphate, which is processed with volumes of sulphuric acid, leaving large residues of radioactive, acidic waste, and producing large amounts of fluorine gas, which is extremely toxic to all animals.”
“Fertilizer plants belch a vast quantity of contaminants into the air and water, known toxicants to the cardiovascular, immune, respiratory, epidermal and reproductive systems of the human body.”
To see Linda Gass’ art quilts inspired by environmental concerns click here.
To see more Color Palettes click here.