iron oak gall ink on paper made from sugarcane and shredded plastic
commissioned for the exhibition “American Dream Denied,” at the Newcomb Art Museum at Tulane University, New Orleans
Inspired by the experiences of residents living in Gordon Plaza for three decades, this work explores the neighborhood’s tidy suburban terrain, with its pleasant aspirational street names like Abundance, Humanity and Benefit, which is quite literally undermined by the unstable toxic ground this development was built on—one that is engineered from the trash and debris collected on site since 1909, when the Agriculture Street Landfill first opened, well before a definition of “hazardous waste” existed.
This work is fashioned from my homemade paper and ink. I made the paper from bagasse, the byproduct of sugarcane production combined with shredded plastic waste. Creating on this paper highlights for me the legacy of chattel slavery and white supremacy on our landscape, and how they are the roots of the environmental racism in Gordon Plaza as well as in Cancer Alley. I made the ink from oak galls, a growth that oak trees produce in reaction to a wasp laying an egg on a leaf bud, creating a puparium for the baby wasp that ultimately does not harm the tree. While using this ink, I was thinking about the specificity of the New Orleans landscape and the feeling of home that oak trees gives a neighborhood, as well as the resilience of the residents of Gordon Plaza.
I am honored to be able to help visualize the decades long struggle the residents of Gordon Plaza have been fighting for a #fullyfundedrelocation.