PetroChemical America Show Offers Frightening Future

The provocative
works of photographer Richard Misrach and landscape
architect Kate Orff dynamically unite in “Petrochemical America: Project
Room,” an exhibition on display at Pomona College Museum of Art (PCMA) since Sept.
2.

The exhibition
reveals the long-standing and often frightening impacts of America’s
dependence on petroleum-based chemicals. Larger-than-life images plaster the
walls of the gallery, offering viewers a haunting perspective on the future of
the petroleum-laden American landscape.

Misrach, a
globally recognized and award-winning photographer, exposes the
industrialization of the once pristine Mississippi River Corridor—now troublingly
referred to as “Cancer Alley” because of the region’s disproportionate cancer rates.
Orff’s illustrations overlay Misrach’s photographs, providing illuminating through-lines that tell the story of the infiltration
of petrochemicals into our lives.  

“When you walk
through the galleries and see how woven into our lives oil and gas are and how
disruptive the industry is to the environment and public health, you are forced
to think more carefully about Southern California: about our air and water
quality, about who benefits from the pumping of oil and gas, their refinement
and ultimate consumption and about who bears a disproportionate burden for the
cars we drive, the clothes we wear, the food we eat, the air we breathe,” said professor
Char Miller, director of the Environmental Analysis program at Pomona College.

Los Angeles is a
highly industrialized region, and with it comes the pervasive presence of
petrochemicals. A panel of historians, scientists and policy advocates will discuss the impact of such petrochemicals and the oil industry in “PetroLA: A Symposium” on Oct. 10 and 11 at Pomona’s Rose
Hills Theater. 

“The challenge
human civilization must face is how to break its deep-seated dependency and the
injustices it generates,” Miller said. “Shifting to cleaner forms of energy is
one step of many we need to take, and decreasing our carbon footprints,
individually and collectively, is another.”

While the exhibit is prompting discussion in an academic atmosphere, its mission extends beyond provoking conversation into thinking about and creating meaningful action. 

“This is not an academic exercise, and
it is not simply of symbolic importance,” Miller said. “We need to adapt as quickly as
possible if we expect to sustain ourselves across time and to aid in the
continued resilience of other species as well.”

“Petrochemical America” will be displayed
at PCMA through Dec. 19. 

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