Here’s the most current gist of my thesis exhibition plan for the Dorsky Museum:
I have the space behind the front desk on the front left (as you enter the main gallery). From left to right, the walls I have for display are 8.5 x 20′, 22 x 20′ tall (dropping to 10′ tall right of the center-point), and 11 x 10′. This leaves approximately 220 sq. ft. of floor space.
On the left wall I intend to hang three clay plaques vertically arranged, each with a subtle, laser-etched and sandblasted map of NY State. As of now, these will be red earthenware.
Moving right, on the center wall left of the dropped ceiling will hang a 8 x 3 ft. sheet of clear acrylic. This will be CNC etched with an idealized geologic cross section of NY State. I will rub, using the sgraffito technique, an oil paint mixed from ground Marcellus shale and linseed oil into the etched recesses. The uncut backside will have a vinyl-cut structure of natural gas production wells leading from a single derrick. The entire acrylic sheet will hang with a space away from the wall. The result will a layered effect, with shadow play.
To the right will be a series of plaques made from CNC-cut PVC, acrylic, or urethane foam. These will be derived from the photographs I have taken of various gas and water valve covers commonly found on sidewalks and streets.
Spaced on the floor will be three large ceramic PDC drill bits. These will be displayed with room for the viewer to circumnavigate. These may be displayed horizontally or vertically, or both.
Here, I am working on my latest drill bit for my thesis show. This piece is wheel-thrown and slab-built. I intend for the work to be installed horizontally with additional threaded pipe sections attached to the non-business end.
This tool is called a polycrystalline diamond compact (PDC) drill bit, used by the petroleum industry to drill into the earth. PDC bits represent the most advanced technology for the process of extracting oil and gas from the earth. I think of these implements as the prow of a ship, leading humans into the farthest subterranean depths.
When I think of technologies that are pioneering the physical edges of our environment Voyager 1, the space probe credited as the first human-made object to leave the Solar System, or Higgs Boson particle accelerator, making discoveries into the farthest reaches of quantum-space, readily come to mind. By interpreting drill bit morphology, each a simple adamantine device, I am shedding light on the subterranean, a place that exists, that is close, that we are completely dependent on, and that we hardly ever acknowledge. This is a landscape that informs my work.
-Introduce how technological development has shaped our concept of nature throughout history. Engage topics of natural resource use, the industrialization of the landscape, and illuminate our ever-changing concepts of nature.
-Show the impact that technologies in oil and gas exploration have made to change the physical and metaphysical landscape (above and below the Earth’s surface).
-Early Gas development in Western NY from 1820’s – present.
-Geologic descriptions and explanations of Marcellus shale by James Hall.
-The invention of the Tricone drill bit: Howard Robard Hughes.
-horizontal drilling technologies
-George Mitchell: hydraulic fracturing.
The work is to do such and such:
-Attest to the engineering marvel of petroleum engineering and infrastructure. (the bits being emblematic of the forefront of this exploration and exploitation, charging forward the prow of a ship)
-Illustrate that these materials and processes are under our feet and around the corner.
-Generate a dialogue about the gravity and cost of such operations and networks of fuel infrastructure (what are we investing in? is this a sustainable? are we desensitized to these industrial landscapes?)
-My work to stand as a witness to the processes and externalities associated with natural gas development, transport, refinement, and consumption.
My work is based on a general technical understanding of petroleum geoscience and the geology particular to New York State. This work is based in research which begins roughly 400 million years ago, during the Devonian period of geologic time. At that time, the majority of New York State straddled the equator. Much of this area was characterized by a tropical shallow sea environment, bursting with marine life. The black shales of New York represent that sea floor, where vast quantities of marine organisms came to be deposited. After millions of years of heat and pressure these accumulations became an extensive reserve of natural gas.
In the 1820’s Fredonia, in western New York broke ground as the first natural gas well ever produced. Wooden pipes were used to transport the gas from the source to a few buildings around the town. Now the state is criss-crossed by a network of buried pipelines, connecting gas wells to millions of heating ducts and stovetops. The increasing demand for gas has brought new prospectors with new technologies, specifically hydraulic fracturing, to the state.
Because the target of these endeavors is the Marcellus shale, a testament to hundreds of millions of years of vigorous biological evolution, it is my intention to bring its history to light in the face of potential environmental distress.
My work attempts to interpret our enmeshed relationship with nature using technology and geology as a wellspring. I believe that technologies alter and shape the way nature is interpreted. In order to engage this entanglement, I am constructing works concerned with oil and gas exploration and exploitation.
The Marcellus shale formation, rich with natural gas, is accessible at local exposures. Through experiments with the shale as a ceramic material- glazing, firing, decaling, and milling it into workable slip, I transform this resource. My use of Marcellus shale also stands as a concept: comparing ecological ruination with the benefits of a modern petroleum-based world.
By reinterpreting objects in clay, mechanical implements such as massive drill bits designed for mining petrochemicals, become fragile and hollow. These monuments of engineering double as a testament of technological progress as well as the comprehension of the possibility of our own destruction, in the jaws of our own creation. In juxtaposition, I am creating my own fossil record from artifacts and impressions of human activity in order to proclaim objective scientific proof to the geologic era: Anthropocene, which defines the last era of geologic time by the ubiquitous and lasting mark of species homo sapien sapien.
Marcellus shale, hamilton member. collected from Kingston, NY. fired to cone 02.