Artist's Statement

Todd Stewart

(40x50” Archival Inkjet Prints) The photographs included in There It Is. Take It! were made during a series of site visits to Owens Lake, a now dry lake bed located in Southeastern California. One of the largest single sources of particulate matter pollution in the United States, the lake was mostly full until the 1913 diversion of the Owens River into the Los Angeles Aqueduct altered the natural flow of water through the Owens Valley. After decades of legal battles, in 2001 the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power was ordered to begin dust mitigation efforts at the site designed to reduce damage done to the lake and to lessen the danger of toxic pollutants. Today Owens Lake is subjugated by the infrastructure of the Anthropocene. The terrain seen in these photographs is not some imagined dystopian landscape of the future. It is instead the very real evidence of an environmental history characterized by greed and hubris. Landscapes are constructs. They are derived from the layering of a particular physical geography with the cultural, political, and ideological concerns of those that inhabit them. Because they represent an accumulation of human activity over time, their meaning is contingent upon both historical and contemporary values. There it is. Take It! is one of a series of projects that collectively form a larger body of work I envision as a framework for both understanding and representing the complex relationship between nature and humanity. As an artist, I am engaged in a dialogical practice that seeks to create a space where conversations about this relationship might happen. I believe the questions we ask are often much more significant than any answers we might provide, and that contradiction and complexity are the dominant characteristics of all knowledge. I firmly believe that if we are to address our tenuous relationship to the natural world, we must work toward solutions that recognize this reality.