Date of Award
Master of Fine Arts (MFA)
Valerie Zimany, Committee Chair
My work acknowledges, reflects upon, and gives form to the crisis of domestic water contamination due to the runoff of three pillars of pollution: industrial manufacturing, corporate agriculture, and consumer products. Drawing from my experiences in water infrastructure, I use biomorphic ceramic sculptures and PVC pipes found in domestic water systems as a metaphor for the insidious presence of microscopic toxins within household water. The exploitation of Earth's resources presents an ecological hierarchy that positions humans as the controllers of nature. This dynamic perpetuates a neglectful hubris towards water quality, putting all organisms at risk.
Proteus consists of two separate, but interconnected sculptural installations. The first work, The Indicator Species consists of semi-rectilinear networks of PVC pipe that meander and meld with biomorphic forms throughout three sections of the gallery, quietly implying persistent contamination given the sculptures' fixed positions on the pipes.
These abstract ceramic sculptures reference various microscopic contaminants and appear to be attached or emerging from the pipe networks. The forms refer to several pollutants detected in the water supplies of my hometown of Hanna City Illinois but are left intentionally ambiguous. Their range of surfaces allude to variations of a "super pollutant," an unidentifiable amalgamation of contaminants unaffected by current water treatment processes.
I frame the biomorphic sculptures within a domestic context through the use of PVC pipes that have the same specifications of those used to transport potable water to homes, but they also produce an uncanny effect through shifts of scale, skewed perspectives, and an erratic overall composition. This prompts associations with the unpredictable movement of waterborne contaminants within supply systems.
Three totemic, human-scale sculptures comprise The Body Burden series. Similarities in form and surface to relate The Body Burden to The Indicator Species conceptually, and each monolithic sculpture is positioned in proximity to The Indicator Species. This spatial relationship highlights formal similarities in the anthropomorphic and biomorphic forms while it also implies a cyclical dynamic between polluters and pollutants.
The contrast of abstraction and representation elicits themes of uncertainty, commonality, and infiltration, and parallels the state of domestic water in the United States. My goal is to engage viewers personally through the work's domestic context and to create a broader dialogue regarding the domestic water quality.
Alwood, Conor A., "Proteus: An Examination of the United States Domestic Water Crisis" (2019). All Theses. 3154.