The Art of Nolan Salix

Nolan Salix
Artist Statement 2016

Much of my work is a representation of industrial landscapes across the west. I often will utilize materials from the site in my paintings. These materials may be mined, used as processing, or are a byproduct of the industry. The metal plates, the tar, smoke (or carbon) are all used to create a literal portrait of the site that is more accurate than just a photograph. The toxins that blow in the air, the suspended sediments in the ponds that leach into the soils, the carbon being released are difficult to represent with realism, yet are so important for the viewer to understand this place.

Camping on site for a few days, I become connected with the rhythms of the place. The early morning light careens across the forms of the landscape at sunrise. Tailing piles, mined strips of scoured mountain sides, and man-made structures appear as monumental sculptures in this horizontal light. This adulterated landscape with distinct forms and copper hues, mimics clear Caribbean waters, and surprises my senses in its stark beauty. The night shift's drone of heavy equipment and work lights put me in tune with the waves of production.

Working on site, I often interact with industry representatives or security guards, either by my requesting permission to enter private lands, or by their inquiry into my presence on public right of ways. I was greeted by a mining engineer who took up conversation regarding my work. During our conversation, he retorted, “if you see environmental degradation from the modern mining industry, then that is an emotional response, not dictated by reason.” This conversation occurred on the seventh day of my art excursion of painting several mine sites in British Columbia. I had clearly been observing degraded landscapes, large scale transformations of mountains and valleys, biologically simplified plant communities, and toxic formations at these sites. This mining engineer, who is responsible for the creation and implementation of a landscape’s transforming designs, was unable to recognize the impacts or the potential failures that will occur as we engineer systems that are unable to mimic natural processes.

As I get back into my car, I am acutely aware of the copper I consume. In so many ways, I am reliant on copper, gold, and silver for my car, computer, house and phones. This landscape is my creation in a defused way. I am the sculptor. We consumers are the sculptors. Which is more precious to us: an intact native ecosystem, or the copper, gold and silver that run through our houses and cars? Does it have to be a choice between one and the other? It seems maybe they both are more precious than we treat them.