Barbara Boissevain: Salt Pond Restoration 2010 – 2019
I had the great pleasure of meeting Barbara Boissevain and her work at CENTER’s Review Santa Fe this past October. Barbara has created a number of compelling projects about toxic territories in the San Francisco Bay Area, one the most polluted regions in the United States. This examination “highlights issues of toxicity relevant to the inhabitants of the Silicon Valley with the intent of fostering meaningful discourse about environmental stewardship” is a four volume project under the title, Big Dirty Secrets, and today we feature Salt Pond Restoration 2010-2019.
Her aerial photographs of the South Bay Salt Pond Restoration Project, the largest wetland restoration program in the United States, are at once painterly and fascinating. The colors and graphic nature of the images, reminiscent of Richard Diebenkorn’s California abstractions, draw us in and allow us to connect with important environmental subject matter.
Barbara also has created an impressive limited edition Large Format Accordion Book, 17 inches by 16.5 feet (edition of eight).
Big Dirty Secrets
My parents and I came to Silicon Valley from the Midwest when I was a young child and the high tech industry was still in its infancy. At the time, the valley contained thousands upon thousands of orchards that I played in—but was unaware that they had been sprayed with DDT. Living in Palo Alto, I find myself within close proximity to several toxic Superfund sites. This series is from a larger body of work titled Big Dirty Secrets, where I bring local environmental issues into focus. The San Francisco Bay Area leads the nation in environmental awareness, yet it is among the most polluted regions in the United States. Currently, there are four volumes in the “Big Dirty Secrets” series: “Ghost Hangar” 2013; “The Oracle’s of Richmond Oil Barrel Installation” 2015; “Cupertino Cement Factory” 2016 and “Salt Pond Restoration 2010-2019.”
Salt Pond Restoration 2010 – 2019
Industrial salt ponds have existed in the San Francisco Bay since the 1800’s and are characterized by environmentalists as having taken away the lungs of the Bay. They are now part of the South Bay Salt Pond Restoration Project, the largest wetland restoration program in the United States. Over the course of sixty years, these salt ponds will go back to their natural state. To date, this massive conservation project has restored over 15,000 acres and when completed will have cost over 100 million dollars. In my latest work I create formal grids of the salt pond images based on the year they were photographed and a common color palette. I began photographing these dramatic changes in 2010 and as the restoration continues, I will add to this series, documenting the increasing biodiversity over the coming decades.
Barbara Boissevain is an internationally exhibited photographer who explores and documents environmental and social justice issues. In her ongoing project, Big Dirty Secrets, she highlights issues of toxicity relevant to the inhabitants of the Silicon Valley with the intent of fostering meaningful discourse about environmental stewardship. Her prior work includes Children of the Rainbow, a book and traveling exhibition that documents humanitarian problems facing Quechua communities in Peru. For her current project, The Trees Will Outlive Us, she photographs nature taking back abandoned human structures, imagining the future evolution of these relinquished sites.
Boissevain received her B.F.A from the San Francisco Art Institute and her M.F.A. from San Jose State University. Her award winning work has been exhibited across the United States and Europe including: Galerie Numero Cinq, Arles, France; the David Brower Center, Berkeley, CA; the Institute of Contemporary Art, San Jose, CA; Currents 826, Santa Fe, NM; the Phoenix Gallery, New York, NY; the New Museum Los Gatos, CA and the Academy of Fine Arts in Krakow, Poland. In the summer of 2018, she completed an artist residency at Galerie Huit in conjunction with Les Rencontres de La Photographie in Arles, France.
Currently, she is an artist in residence with the City of Palo Alto’s juried Cubberley Artist Studio Program.
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