Molly Marek: By•prod•uct
I create ceramic work by taking elements gathered directly from my surroundings. My art is inspired by nature and the traditional simple functional shapes of the Appalachian folk pottery of Southern Ohio and Eastern Kentucky.
The subject matter of my work is influenced by the environment and the direct effects of pollution in the Appalachian region. Both my glazing and firing techniques often include elements gathered directly from these contaminated locations. My work brings awareness to often-forgotten areas of the nation where this long term pollution permeates everyday life.
Sunday Creek is located in the Appalachian region of Southern Ohio. This area's roots run deep in traditional pottery, moonshine, coal mining and its byproduct, pollution. The bleached banks of Sunday Creek are juxtaposed against its orange waters which are heavily contaminated with
acid mine drainage.
The jugs take their shape from the traditional moonshine jugs of the region. The white crackle slip applied to the jugs prior to firing gives them a look reminiscent of the creek's bleached banks.
As reported by the EPA, Acid Mine Drainage is a result of abandoned coal mines and improperly stored mine waste. It forms when sulfide minerals are exposed to water and air and oxidize to form sulfuric acid and dissolved iron. This iron is responsible for the striking burnt orange appearance of Acid Mine Drainage water. The acidic runoff dissolves dangerous heavy metals into surface and groundwater as well, polluting drinking water.
This work represents the endless flow of acid mine drainage water coming up from one of the abandoned mining sites in Athens County that dumps polluted orange water directly into Sunday Creek. The ceramic vessels once held the polluted water that I collected directly from Sunday Creek. The purpose of these vessels was to contain the water and stop it from contaminating the surrounding environment. The vessels emulate the failed pollution control measures that have been utilized in the region. No matter what is done, the affected water still rises, harming everything in its path just like the orange waters of Sunday Creek.
The shape of the vessels is influenced by Appalachian folk pottery and folk craft reminiscent of the region. The orange color of the vessels represents a combination of the dissolved iron oxide present in the acid mine drainage water in Sunday Creek.
By incorporating the running water from Sunday Creek, the work creates an immersive sensory experience for the viewer, bringing the typical gallery visitor into an environment they would not usually find themselves in. This body of work sheds light on the environmental disaster happening right under our feet and initiates a conversation about its effects on the environment and the drinking water issues it causes for rural Appalachian communities.
September 3 - 24, 2022
Public Reception, September 3, 4-8pm
Virtual show platforms: