Cynthia Kerby

Weak Stays/Weak Steel: Binding Oil and Water Rights. The Consequence of Constraints (2018)
installation: acrylic on canvas, steel, corset stays, metal, fabric, glass, and black onyx
68 x 50 x 45 in.

Water Injustice: A difficult truth exposed

I have deep ancestral ties to the Great Lakes region and the Straits of Mackinac. What I know about the weakening Enbridge Line 5 oil pipeline running under the Straits is its potential hazard to the Great Lakes community and 700 miles of shoreline. My installation is a direct response to this looming threat of a massive oil spill. Everyday, the 64-year-old loose pipeline carries 23 million gallons of crude oil.

As a call to awareness, I have created a mixed-media piece that I hope to show in every state surrounding these waters. My work is articulated in a restrictive garment, the corset—which expresses the consequence of constraints imposed by oil production. To tighten the corset, exposed steel pipes in front act as busks and join calm lake waters with violent waves; oil drips at either end. The dominant role of restriction is in full view to reveal the industry’s standards of indifference. The neck binding is made of one corset stay wrapped tightly around, with black onyx beads changing size as they “snake” upward to show fortitude against adversity.

The Great Lakes hold 20% of fresh water on our planet and are impacted by additional environmental pressures due to micro-plastics, mussel invasiveness, contaminated sediments–‘forever chemicals’, and consumptive use of lake water by giant corporations that have concealed truths regarding outdated oil and water rights, easements, and unconstitutional agreements with local governments. This work expresses my truth and fears.

© Cynthia Kerby