An Art Ruckus

Extraction:Art on the Edge of the Abyss

Exhibit B: Bethlehem Steel, Hudson River Industry & the Union Electric Power Plant

Prints by Kyle Gallup

 

Bethlehem Steel

On display in No.3 Reading Room’s windows June 2 – July 6, 2021

Second Saturday outdoor event with artist, 3-7pm June 12

469 Main St., Beacon, NY 12508

EXTRACTION: Art on the Edge of the Abyss is a multimedia, multi-venue, cross-border art intervention which seeks to provoke societal change by exposing and interrogating the negative social and environmental consequences of industrialized natural resource extraction. A global coalition of artists and creators committed to shining a light on all forms of extractive industry—from mining and drilling to the reckless plundering and exploitation of fresh water, fertile soil, timber, marine life, and innumerable other resources across the globe— the Extraction Project will culminate in a constellation of nearly fifty overlapping exhibitions, performances, installations, site-specific work, land art, street art, publications, poetry readings, and cross-media events throughout 2021and beyond.

No.3 Reading Room & Photo Book Works is participating as a venue in this “ruckus” by presenting projects by several artists working to shine this light through photography, printmaking, publications, installation, video and painting throughout summer and fall, 2021. For the month of June into July, rescaled reproductions of Kyle Gallup’s original litho prints will be on display in the reading room’s storefront windows as an outdoor exhibit. Of her work, Kyle states:

In the 1990’s through the early 2000’s I worked on a series of paper lithographic transfer prints that were one-part documentary and one-part painterly expression of disappearing industrial sites I was seeing on trips through the Northeast and the Midwest. The series began as a way to capture big, built forms in the environment. 

While working on this series, human backstories emerged. The day my husband and I photographed the Bethlehem Steel plant—the images I’d use in the printmaking process—we hadn’t realized that the plant had closed only weeks before. We were with our son, a toddler at the time. The laid-off employees and their families were out on their porches in town holding garage sales to generate cash. We spoke with them about their difficult situations—being out of jobs that they had held for years. There was much uncertainty and anxiety. Our son was given a stuffed animal that he happened to see in a box with a lot of other toys. The seller insisted on giving it to him and wouldn’t take any money from us. 

I grew up in St. Louis, Missouri, where my father was a civil engineer.  I made prints of the Union Electric Power Plant on the Mississippi River, using his job site photos from a floodwall project along the river in the 1970s. The plant had powered the “Palace of Electricity” during the 1904 World’s Fair, which brought my great-grandmother’s family to St. Louis at the turn of the century. On weekends, my dad would take the whole family to the river where the job was in progress. The floodwall was constructed to protect the power plant as well as the downtown. The nature of the printmaking process creates a disintegration of the plate and because of this, the Union Electric Power Plant looks more like a large steamboat on the river. The plant was originally coal-fired, changing over to oil in 1972, then to natural gas in 1996. -K.G.

Kyle’s images were taken in the 1990’s as the basis for photo-litho prints which are reproduced and resized for this display. Kyle grew up a short drive away from the industrialized stretch of the Mississippi River in St. Louis, Missouri, and has lived near the Hudson River in New York City for decades. Both rivers have been used for industrial sewage, coal fired power plant and factory sites and the transport of industrial materials by barges. Some of these structures have been demolished, some remain. It’s a reminder of how nature is perceived by industrialists and capitalists who believed it’s for the taking by those most willing to put it into “highest and best use.” To them, unspoiled natural sites were seen as wastelands available for such purposes, which often meant development supposedly serving a “greater good” that made them wealthy while polluting our air, water and earth for decades.

Our country is filled with such sites and many ecological battles have been waged over them. Many have been the source of illness and premature death of residents in low-income areas and communities of color. Environmental racism is a well documented by-product of the extractive industries. One such fight happening right now in NY is the re-opening of the nearby Dansakammer power plant on the Hudson River for so-called “clean” energy. A decision will be made soon about the fate of this site.

Meanwhile, we watch as new “green” economies turn to mining metals such as lithium for e-car batteries out West. What new monstrosities and poisons will be unleashed in the race to improve our atmosphere and climate? When capitalism calls the shots about the direction of change, we can be sure that underlying their motives is greed. New zones are now under contract for mining tech metals, so we’re only trading one form of poison for another. It just depends on what they’re willing to sacrifice, what we’re willing to accept. There are no easy answers, yet it appears that the dominant voices of industrialists still control the “solutions” that are rapidly being determined in the new “green” economies. I have yet to hear a word from those in power about conservation, less consumption, re-use and repair, mass transit solutions and alternative technologies for batteries. It always falls to individuals to hold industry and the government to account as citizens and as consumers. This is on top of the already challenging work of day-to-day survival. We are becoming exhausted and this is what perpetuates the cycle.

In two or three decades, the middle years for today’s school-aged children, they will be contending with yet another extractive industry’s pollution for metals required for our tech and e-vehicles. Must poisoned earth and water be the tradeoff for cleaner air? In our rush to stop climate change are we overlooking the earth’s surfaces that we also depend on for life? We need holistic solutions to stopping the climate chaos causing 90-degree days in May in northern states and extreme drought across the planet. Ask those with water shortages how they feel about fracking or mining. We must not abide new sacrifice zones. They are not the answer. I am so grateful to all those who are working to find better solutions to heal our planet before it’s too late.

Kyle and I both have fathers who worked on such sites; hers as a civil engineer who always weighed in with his father, also a civil engineer, about what he saw as necessary regarding environmental concerns and often disagreed with the plans of the Army Corp of Engineers. My father was a machinist in a factory near the Mississippi River in St. Paul, MN who struggled with the dangers and pollution inherent in his work. Both he and his father, a railroad worker, died from industrially acquired cancers. Kyle and I are certain, that if our fathers and grandfathers were still with us in this time, they would be would be putting their talents to use on behalf of a sustainable planet. Meanwhile, their children and grandchildren are engaged in this work in the hope that our children and grandchildren will be able to abide in a time of healing and repair of our home on Earth. -PMR

Kyle Gallup is an American artist living in New York City. Growing up in St. Louis, Missouri, instilled in her a love of the prairie and wide-open spaces.  As a painter she traverses the line between known and invented landscapes. She has developed an intuitive approach to her work that combines observation, experience, and memory. She received a BFA from Tufts University and the Boston Museum School. In 2019 she was invited to be the first international resident at Colart and Winsor & Newton Paints in London, UK, where she experimented with the historic paint company’s new line of environmentally friendly Cadmium-free watercolors. She has shown her work in the US, Canada, and Britain. Her work is in private and corporate collections, including Robert Blackburn’s print collection in the Library of Congress.

Hudson River Decaying Piers

Union Electric Power Plant, St. Louis, Missouri

Hudson River Transfer Station Relic

Union Electric Power Plant, St. Louis, Missouri
The Megazine

Also available for viewing and purchase is the Extraction project’s Megazine exhibition guide that includes writing and artwork by participating artists and organizations serving as sites for this global art ruckus.

Please visit https://www.codexfoundation.org/extraction to learn more.

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