When I was a kid I spent a lot of time on the banks of the Kanawha River in West Virginia. I live in what what is known as the chemical valley because we have so many chemical plants in this area and most are along the riverside. It used to be that dumping regulations were much less strict or even nonexistent so it was a well known fact that no one should eat any fish they caught from the river. Many people were even reluctant to say it was okay to swim because so many heavy metals and who knows what other chemicals were being released into it. I can remember two specific instances where I went down to play on the riverbank and there was a fish kill so massive that in my “child brain” I felt I could almost walk across the entire river on the corpses. This image has persisted in my head to this very day and is the original source for this body of work.
Since chemical pollution is more strictly controlled now I haven’t seen a fish kill so massive but the amount of litter in the river and on the banks seems to have increased exponentially. The idea behind these pieces is for me to personally collect trash and then encapsulate it inside a clear resin cast of different types of fish found in the the Kanawha River. I did learn how to make molds from actual fish but decided I didn’t want to kill any animals for the project so I made these molds from taxidermist copies so it is as close as I could get to real fish without harming a creature. For the first project I created 1000 fish cast from 18 different original molds and continued to make them over the years. I don’t know the exact number, but I would estimate I made close to 5000 in total. The clear resin body represents the “ghost” of the fish and the garbage inside is part of what killed them. The massive numbers I made were to try and reproduce the images in my head of the fish kills I witnessed as a child.