Newtown Creek is home to birds, fish, and courageous kayakers. It was also the site of the largest oil spill in United States history, until 2010’s BP spill in the Gulf of Mexico, with around 30 million gallons of oil still in the water.
Last Thursday, December 8th, Manhattan’s RH Gallery hosted “Toxic Land,” an art exhibition featuring Micah Ganske’s environmental paintings. Of interest to Greenpointers was a large-scale, aerial depiction of the neighborhood and the Creek.
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) representative Michael Sivak was also on hand to discuss the creek and its future to attendees of the show. Newtown Creek was designated a Superfund spot in 2010, meaning the federal government would take charge of cleaning the Creek, billing those responsible for the pollution.
Ganske’s painting, “Greenpoint, NY,” is a 120” by 150” detailed rendering of the area, overshadowed by a giant satellite dish. Technological structures towering ominously over environmentally damaged communities are a trademark of Ganske’s works.
A native of Hawaii, Ganske didn’t enjoy the outdoors as a kid, but slowly developed a fascination with the environment that later came to influence his art. “I started making work about tourism and vacation photos [in Hawaii] and that turned into the environment,” he said. The artists’ series also includes paintings of polluted areas such as Centralia, Pennsylvania, the Love Canal, Michigan Central, and Bethlehem Steel.
As for Newtown Creek, Ganske said he was inspired by the hope that New Yorkers felt just a few decades ago when the city hosted the World’s Fair. “I started getting really interested in NASA in the 60s. The optimism from that time seemed to pair really well with these sad, depressing locations. …. I started researching the most polluted places in America and Greenpoint came up. This was around the time that the Gowanus [Canal] had been designated a Superfund site. I learned about [Newtown] and it seemed like the perfect painting to fit in the series.”
“Toxic Land” will remain on display at RH Gallery through January 13th.
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