If you’re in the Boston area, I want to invite you to the opening of my exhibition, “Deindustrialization,” taking place Thursday evening, November 7 from 5 – 7 PM. The exhibition consists of twelve large scale portraits of textile mills from the Blackstone Valley region of Massachusetts and Rhode Island. There will be an artist talk shortly after 5, mingling, and I believe free food! The opening will take place on the campus of Babson College, in the Hollister Gallery. Directions are here.
I want to thank BabsonArts and Associate Director Danielle Krcmar for making this all possible. This work was sponsored in part through a sabbatical grant from Babson College, for which I’m also most grateful. The work was printed on metal, an amazing process, by the wonderful folks at Blazing Editions . Working with them and more specifically Juliette Pascale was a joy. The results were stunning.
On another note, this exhibition is really a bit less of a celebration and more of a remembrance. The industrial revolution in the U.S. and indeed around the world, a revolution that is still going on in many places, brought with it a tremendous upsurge in wealth. At the same time, it brought with it massive sacrifices on the part of those who did the work and the communities in which these mills were built.
The raw materials for the cotton mills prior to the U.S. Civil War were farmed by enslaved workers kidnapped from Africa. Even after the Civil War the combination of share cropping arrangements and terror enforced by organizations like the KKK imposed the most severe hardships on those involved. Working conditions in the mills, though not as bad as one would find in England at the time were extremely harsh. The environmental degradation that occurred because of the mill industrial waste and the repeated damming of the rivers of the Blackstone Valley is still with us today.
At the same time, mill employment helped to create, at least in part, a melting pot, bringing people together from much of the world, into what became in many places a real community. Some of those communities still exist today as well. The boom and bust phenomena, a phenomena which continues unabated, is ultimately a harsh developmental path for our society.