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Artist Statement - A Precarious Balance…

A few years ago I explored the Rachel Carson Preserve in Maine.  I learned from that exploration that the marshes and wetlands protect and create a balance between the land and sea, a system that is at best precarious and one that can easily be disrupted.  As I walked over the huge rocks on the coast of Maine, I began to ponder how out-of-balance our environment has become since I was a kid.

For example, when I return to the family farm in Michigan where I grew up in the 40’s and 50’s, I can no longer pick the wild morels in the woods and gully, or the wild blackberries on the old road. There is no more fresh blackberry pie in August because farming has changed.  Chickens do not roam outside the chicken coop until dusk and cattle instead of roaming the pastures are kept in manure-laden pens and fed drugs to make them grow bigger and faster.   What hasn’t changed though is how the water from the fields drain into the gully, into our neighbor’s river, into the lake, and finally into the ocean.  That system remains, but it has been polluted with chemicals since 1955 when farmers started to spray the crops and I rode on the back of the tractor watching the transparent mist of spray cover the corn.

But not only did the corn get covered with chemical spray, but I did too.  Fifteen years later I was told that I had cancer and only six months to a year to live.  I was given chemotherapy until I finally walked into the doctor’s office and said “I can’t take anymore even if that means death.”  Forty years later I look back and am very grateful to the doctors and to the chemotherapy that saved my life, yet today, I look around and see a society that is inundated with chemicals and prescription drugs.

My work draws attention to and offers visual representations of two systems trying desperately to mesh and achieve equilibrium.  From my mathematical background, I see mathematics working throughout our natural system and yet I see the corporate, industrial system ignoring it instead of embracing it.  The discarded Styrofoam I use in my sculptures represents the non-biodegradable and chemical laden products we produce in our commercial environment and the sea urchin with its pentagonal structure represents the natural world.  I do believe that equilibrium can eventually be achieved, but it is a balancing act, a precarious balance as are the marshes and wetlands that protect the land and the sea.

Roy Steele

© 2011

© 2014