This past week I have been working towards finishing the last piece that I will weave as a Tulsa Artist Fellow, before packing up my studio and moving at the end of December.
Last Sunset Over the Arkansas is made from linen dyed with Osage orange and cochineal (plant and insect derived dyes respectively) and petrochemical-derived fishing line. Two separately woven panels will each shift from shades of green-gold to golden-yellow to coral and magenta, interpretations of 124 years of annual average temperature for Oklahoma. Each panel is loosely woven and semi-transparent, one hung in front of the other, so that no matter what side of the work you stand on, you will see both panels and how the colors interact with each other.
The title of the piece refers to the Arkansas river which runs through Tulsa, and to Oklahoma’s expansive, dramatic sky. Both the river and the sky have influenced choices of color and form.
The Arkansas is extremely polluted from the dumping of waste by refineries. When I first moved to Oklahoma at the beginning of 2017, the river was a trickle of grey-brown. But in May of this year it roared through Tulsa, overflowing its banks and swallowing up houses in the surrounding region, a result of the month’s unusually severe storm season—one local manifestation of global climate chaos. The flooding even uncovered a landfill that had been closed and out of use for 50 years, strewing huge quantities of plastic trash through a nature preserve.
Tulsa’s sunrises and sunsets, in the meantime, are made increasingly stunning because (at least in part) of the pollution from local oil refineries.
The work is a personal goodbye to a place I’ve called home for three years and also a goodbye that alludes to something larger—the changes and losses we face due to climate change.
I am sharing this work in progress here because I realize that it is also influenced by the conversations I have been having with Oscar over the last two months and the images we have been looking at together, for example: the relationships between what is happening within an individual water body and what is happening around it; water separating into layers; fishing and fisherman as holding certain kinds of knowledge about the lake; the silica skeletons of dead algae falling to the bottom of a lake and becoming part of the buildup of sediment and the stories found in each sediment layer; images of diatoms and lake surfaces…