Artists Sarah Lindley and Steve Nelson discussed their recent projects that examine the former Plainwell Paper mill and watershed of the Kalamazoo River, and their impact on the environment and surrounding community.
Ripple Effect: From Industry to Environment in the Kalamazoo River Basin” featured work by Michigan-based artists Sarah Lindley and Steve Nelson in The Fed Galleries @ Kendall College of Art and Design of Ferris State University (KCAD).
“KCAD values the work of creatives from the region and The Fed Galleries are pleased to present this body of work by three artists living and working in West Michigan,” says KCAD Director of Exhibitions Sarah Joseph. “In addition to the exhibitions, we encourage the community to join us for upcoming presentations by the exhibiting artists.”
The muse behind both Lindley’s and Nelson’s work is the former Plainwell paper mill, which was abandoned in 2000 after the Plainwell Paper Mill Company declared bankruptcy. Lindley’s “Exposure Pathways” was originally created as a site-specific sculptural intervention inside the abandoned mill and is constructed entirely of paper product found there. The 20’ x 35’ structure’s intertwining three-dimensional sections reference the form of the Kalamazoo Watershed and reflect what Lindley calls her “process of investigating and interpreting the push-play power dynamics between industry, surrounding communities and environments.”
Nelson’s large-format photographs, on the other hand, document the site’s industrial architecture, interiors and surroundings from an intimate perspective. A series of black-and-white prints titled “Angels and Guardians” and a series of near life-size color prints titled “The Interloper” illuminate forgotten places of industry while revealing the daily and seasonal cycles of time and questioning what Nelson calls “the illusion of purpose and function.”
“Through Lindley’s and Nelson’s work, we are challenged to look closely at both industrial and natural environments and the interactions between the two,” says KCAD Curator of Exhibitions Michele Bosak. “How do we treat places like the Plainwell paper mill once they’re no longer of any industrial value? What do we do with them now? What feelings do they create when we encounter them in an abandoned state? These are all questions we want to raise through the exhibition.”