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Current Exhibition

Joan Linder
Atomic Highways and Byways

Jan 18 - March 10, 2017
Gallery Hours: M-F 9:00AM - 5:00PM
Institute for the Humanities Gallery, 202 S. Thayer, Ann Arbor

"Copy"
Lecture by Joan Linder & Paul Vanouse
Jan 18, U-M Museum of Art, 525 S. State, 5pm

Opening Reception
Jan 18, Institute for the Humanities, 202 S. Thayer, 6pm (immediately following lecture)

Watch the video trailer.

About the exhibition: Artist Joan Linder is best known for her labor-intensive drawings that transform mundane subjects into conceptually rich images. For this exhibition, she focused on a toxic dumping site near Willow Run airport and two near Niagara Falls. Linder draws in her car, and also makes rubbings from the grounds on location. All three drawings will occupy vitrines that also contain an assortment of hand-copied documents relating to the specific context and history of the locations in question. On the walls, there will be two large rubbings: one from a radioactive parking lot on Niagara Falls Boulevard, the other from the place where the radioactive spoils pile was kept before being shipped to Michigan. 

Artist's Statement

This exhibition looks at three toxic landscapes and the ways in which they are interconnected. Two are in Niagara Falls, New York. The third is in Michigan.

I have been looking at Western NY landscapes, exploring Niagara Falls, and doing archival work for the past three and a half years, drawing the resulting documents and observations, using the act of drawing to uncover the toxic history buried the archives, as well as the land.

Early into my my research, I discovered that Buffalo and Niagara Falls had both been instrumental in the assembling of the first atomic weapons. Before Oak Ridge, Hanford, Los Alamos, or the existence of the Department of Energy and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the development of atomic bombs took place in private laboratories, under top secret contracts from the Federal Government. In Western NY, companies such as Linde Air Products, the Eletro Metallurgical Company, and Simonds Saw and Steel formed and processed uranium rods for the Manhattan Project. These processes produced a fair amount of radioactive waste.

Some of that waste was shipped offsite to waste facilities in the western United States. Some was drained into local streams and sewers, pumped into local wells, buried in local landfills, stored in drums on nearby public and private properties, mixed into the fill that was used to pave local roads, driveways, and graveyards—or simply left where it was. To this day (the half-life of uranium is 4.5 billion years), Niagara is peppered with radioactive hot spots.

Buffalo/Niagara also has a number of Formerly Utilized Sites Remediation Action Plan (FUSRAP) sites, where radioactive materials left over from the Manhattan Project have been consolidated and maintained. These sites, which include the Niagara Falls Storage site, West Valley, Seaway 1 & 2 are managed by the Army Corp Eastern District. But what becomes of nuclear waste that’s discovered, today, unearthed in a new construction project such, found in a graveyard or under a parking lot. 

This summer, the Niagara Gazette and The Public (an independent newspaper in Buffalo), both published stories about a radioactive spoils pile that was discovered across the street from the newly opened train station in Niagara Falls. At the time, reporters were told that the material would be disposed of out-of-state. According to the Niagara Gazette, the waste was shipped to Wayne Disposal, a commercial hazardous waste landfill in Bellville, Michigan. WD is one of nineteen active hazardous waste sites in the country. But oddly—even absurdly—enough, the Northeast has its own active hazardous waste site: Chemical Waste Management, which is located in Lewiston, New York, less than ten miles away from the town of Niagara Falls. (To bring things full circle: CWM occupies the former location of Lake Ontario Ordinance Work, an army site that was once used to receive Manhattan Project uranium mined in the Belgian Congo, and is adjacent to FUSERAPS’s Niagara Falls Storage Site.)

Among other things, this exhibition takes that absurdity as its starting point, and looks examines the disconcerting practice of transporting radioactive waste across state lines in order to “clean up” a region that is also a radioactive waste site itself.

The exhibition consists of three long, scrolling graphite landscape drawings of the sites as they are today. One is the Modern Landfill and Tomato Hothouses site in Lewiston, NY—it, too, is located on the former LOOW site, near the Niagara Falls Storage Site. The second is a stretch of Niagara Falls Boulevard that includes the local Best Western, Rapids Bowling, and the Greater Niagara Building Center (a wholesale supplier for local builders and contractors), all of which have radioactive parking lots. The third drawing depicts the Willow Run Airport and Wayne Disposal in Belleville, Michigan, a former farm camp for boys turned into the B-24 bomber plant during WWII and now a hazardous waste landfill and airport. All three drawings will occupy vitrines that also contain an assortment of hand-copied documents relating to the specific context and history of the locations in question. On the walls, there will be two large rubbings: one from a radioactive parking lot on Niagara Falls Boulevard, the other from the place where the radioactive spoils pile was kept before being shipped to Michigan. 

-Joan Linder

Curator's Statement

Artist Joan Linder (American born 1970) is a throwback in an age of tweets, posts, and post truth.

Her meticulously crafted drawings address “politics of war, sexual identity, and power, and the beauty disclosed in the close scrutiny of natural and man-made structures.”  Working with both large scale rubbings and also intricate drawings on a more intimate scale, her mark making expresses both the close at hand and the whole gamut, our relationship to landscapes and our more immediate environs, what we understand about them on the surface of things, and what resides beneath.

In her Institute for the Humanities exhibition, Linder focuses on three toxic landscapes, two in Niagara Falls and one in Michigan. The hazardous waste site in Belleville, MI, run by US Ecology, accepts radioactive waste from fracking and other sources. Each work created from her hours of observation—often the result of sitting covertly in her car onsite—becomes a trace of both human and manufactured experience, alluding to unsuspected histories.    

-Amanda Krugliak, Arts Curator, Institute for the Humanities