Mixed Greens is thrilled to present Project Sunshine, Joan Linder’s sixth solo exhibition with the gallery. With artistic passion, a researcher’s tenacity, and enviable chutzpah, Linder spent the last several years visiting and drawing Buffalo’s brownfields, toxic waste sites, and the documents related to these hazardous properties. She takes the exhibition title from particularly shocking research done in the ‘50s that many times used the bodies of young children to ascertain the impact of radioactive fallout on the world’s population.
The initial focus of Linder’s project was Love Canal, a 36-square-block area located on the banks of the Niagara River. In 1978, it was revealed that Love Canal, the site of an elementary school and housing subdivision, had been the dumping ground for over 20,000 tons of toxic waste by Hooker Chemical Company (now Occidental Petroleum Corporation). This man-made atrocity birthed a nationwide grass roots activist movement that launched the federal government’s “Superfund.” Now Linder finds herself living a short drive from unassuming chain-link fences standing as the only barrier between herself and peaceful, grassy, wildflower-covered mounds covering the toxic waste buried underground.
The drawings in the show are the result of Linder’s horror and bewilderment as she investigated the disturbing environmental history of Niagara Falls and the surrounding land. She spent countless hours parked along the Hooker Chemical landfill and other dumping grounds, sketching their artificial borders in over 60 feet of accordion-style Moleskins. Additional pen-and-ink drawings of earth patches are 1-to-1 scale, outlining ground and ultimately questioning what lies beneath the mundane pebbles and weeds that compose our land. Finally, Linder spent weeks in libraries and historical societies, creating over seventy hand-drawn copies of aerial maps marking radioactive storage sites; memos on human uranium injections; and declassified documents filled with details that should unsettle even the most jaded viewers.
Waste sites are structured to be invisible. While information about them is available, it is often overwhelming in volume and not found in proximity to the site itself. Visitors to Niagara Falls, for example, typically have no idea that hundreds of thousands of tons of hazardous waste lie buried in the area or that radioactive waste once flowed over the falls. Now deemed safe by the government, Love Canal and numerous nearby sites are quickly disappearing from our collective memory, although Linder’s Geiger counter readings suggest the problem is still there. Project Sunshine recognizes unassuming earth mounds and the paperwork associated with them as monuments to history, bringing focused attention to the subject through the embodied practice of drawing.
Joan Linder will be drawing in the gallery each week Thursday through Saturday, for the duration of the show.
Joan Linder lives and works in Buffalo, NY. She has shown at venues including The Albright-Knox in Buffalo, NY; The Brattleboro Museum, Brattleboro, VT; Kunsthallen Brandts, Odense, Denmark; The Weatherspoon Museum of Art, Greensboro, NC; The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum, Ridgefield, CT; Queens Museum of Art, NY; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA; and The Bronx Museum, NY. Her most recent solo exhibitions were at the Nina Freudenheim Gallery in Buffalo, NY; Omi International Arts Center, Ghent, NY; and Fiendish Plots, Lincoln, NE. Awards include a Constance Saltonstall Foundation Grant, a Pollock Krasner Foundation grant, and residencies at Smack Mellon, MacDowell, Yaddo, and Montalvo. She also completed a permanent installation at the 71st Street Station in Brooklyn, NY, for the MTA. This body of work was supported with fellowships from The Humanities Institute and Techne, both at the University of Buffalo SUNY.