Mining for Art
Graduate Student Spotlight: Jeff Lovett
March 7, 2011
“Attention needs to be drawn to this,” Lovett says. “These towns became this way because of short-term, profit-driven thinking. One hundred years later we’re suffering environmental damage.”
Graduate student Jeff Lovett showed his images of acid mine drainage at The Cooper Union in New York City last fall. (Courtesy of Jeff Lovett)
Lovett displayed this work last fall in “The Crude and the Rare,” a group exhibition on extractive industries and the value of natural resources at the Cooper Union, a college in New York City.
The runoff from century-old mines is highly acidic and full of heavy metals, which can give the streams an orange or white tint. Lovett wanted to document that damage “in a way that’s fair and that also shows problems with documentation,” he says.
To create the most neutral images possible, he removed his point-of-view. He took the lid off his scanner, Velcroed it to the back of his tablet PC, and connected the two. He next placed the laptop beside streams and scanned the three-dimensional environment. The resulting images combine rich textures and colors with lines and errors from the machine.
“There’s a really nice honesty in that record,” Lovett says.
The act of creating art out of the region’s concerns was also a way of going beyond himself. Because he tends to view art as self-referential and self-involved, Lovett says he favors science. However, science has its disadvantages as well, he notes: “Science fails because it describes things in too much detail, in a way you can’t relate to. Art gives you a portal.”
By Katie Brandt
This article will appear as part of a longer feature on Ohio University graduate student research, scholarship, and creative activity in the Spring/Summer 2011 issue of Perspectives magazine.