Monroe Fellowship

Awarded Monroe Fellows Research Grant for 2020-2021 from the New Orleans Center for the Gulf South

The New Orleans Center for the Gulf South (NOCGS) is an interdisciplinary, place-based institute that was founded in 2011. NOCGS is dedicated to preserving, perpetuating, and celebrating the distinctive cultures of New Orleans and the Gulf South, identified as the bioregion stretching from Florida to Texas. Its focus is not only on the coastal states, but is international as well, exploring areas of Latin America, the Caribbean, and Africa that have ties to the region and have influenced its distinctive history and traditions, as well as other delta city and coastal wetland areas around the world that share geographical traits. NOCGS programming is based on the belief that the more we understand where we are, the more fully we can engage in our democracy and collective destiny.

The Monroe Fellowship program will be supporting the advancement of my research and experimental documentation of the petrochemical plants in our region. This project utilizes a unique method of aestheticization as a strategy to engage with issues related to environmental exploitation. Through endeavors in optics, physiology, and material studies, I have been able to photographically simulate an afterimage—the physiological phenomenon that results in an image continuing to appear in the eyes after looking at the sun or at bright objects in the dark. This replication occurs through the development of custom-built cameras and artificial retinas that register the remains of light. My afterimaging cameras render the landscape of the fossil fuel industry as ghostly and vanishing, an unearthly forbidden city that should be perceived as a relic of our destructive past. I am planning to undertake a river expedition to create a new collection of panoramic afterimages of the 85-mile stretch of petrochemical plants from Baton Rouge to New Orleans known as “Cancer Alley.” Using beauty as an access point into complex environmental issues, this work presents the petrochemical refineries in this region as magnificent relics of our misguided past to point to the unsustainability of this exploitative industry.