MOUNTAIN STRIP (2009)
Wood, plywood, foam, plastic, paint, branches, dirt, and other natural materials.
40′ × 22′ × 25′
(Installation view: Black and White Project Space, Brooklyn, NY)
Blane De St. Croix built Mountain Strip as a massive site-specific work for the Black and White Project Space. Mountain Strip presents a monumental, miniaturized landscape section of a West Virginia mountain strip coal mine, simulating a devastating slice of the environment. As the nation and the world grapple with the ecological, social and political implications of strip mining, these mountain mines have received increased scrutiny, and taken on symbolic status.
De St. Croix quite literally builds a mountain upside down, referencing the strip mining process of mountain top removal and filling of the valleys, a process that definitively flattens the land and strips it of all its resources and sustainability. The installation runs over forty feet in length and towered above the Project Space’s exterior walls as installed. It climbed twenty-two feet high, and dramatically cut through the exterior exhibition space into the interior gallery, functioning as a barrier for the viewer. Architecturally the space and sculpture engaged to frame the mountain as a wedge between the project’s exhibition walls, precariously suspended just inches from the ground. So suspended, the installation could be perceived as a three-dimensional still: a subliminal image. Referencing the historical genre of landscape, Mountain Strip painstakingly renders the mountain’s topography and its demise.
Mountain Strip is based on De St. Croix’s trips to strip mines and mining communities in West Virginia. Research for the project included travel to abandoned and active strip mines, as well as interviews with anti-strip mining activists, regional green organizations, the Child Services department in the area, working miners, and local residents. Extensive documentation was done through on the ground activities in addition to an aerial fly-over of the strip mines.
The research trip culminated on the top of Kayford Mountain, a heavily mined area where De St. Croix interviewed anti-strip mining activist Larry Gibson over several days. Larry’s last stand against the strip mining companies won him a CNN hero’s award. His mountaintop has been in his family for over 200 years and is being stripped away leaving a small green patch topping the mountain in an otherwise barren and leveled landscape. He has fought this type of land devastation for 20 years. The Mountain Strip project specifically reconstructs a selected section of the Kayford Mountain Ridge top in West Virginia as both a monument and memorial to the land.
Photo credit: Etienne Frossard