Published: July 24, 2012
The Gibbes Museum of Art has received a work of art from Charleston native J. Henry Fair, whose photographs were exhibited at the museum in a solo exhibition in 2011. The photograph, titled “Bacon, Warsaw, N.C.,” is now a part of the museum’s permanent collection and is currently on view in “The Charleston Story” exhibition.
Fair moved from Charleston to New York City in 1980 to pursue a career in photography. For decades he enjoyed success making portraits of many of the world’s notable singers, musicians and performers †his clientele has ranged from Yo-Yo Ma to Emmylou Harris. However, his passion for the environment became a driving force in his career, and in 2000 he launched the “Industrial Scars” project. Drawn to sites where the land has been drastically changed by the mining or manufacturing of coal, petroleum, fertilizer or paper pulp, Fair documents the effects of industrial processes on landscapes.
A self-described environmental activist, Fair originally set out to record these sites to inspire both environmental reforms and changes to consumer behavior; however, while flying above acres of toxic wastes spilling into waterways and covering the landscape, he discovered an unexpected beauty in his subject. He began to see intriguing shapes, patterns and mesmerizing colors in the wastelands.
Fair’s photographs became more abstract and surprisingly pleasing to the eye. It is this unsettling sense of beauty found in tracts of bauxite waste, coal ash and phosphate discharge that has drawn worldwide attention to his work and to his mission.
In 2011, the Gibbes Museum of Art hosted an exhibition of Fair’s photographs highlighting images that he has taken of industrial sites in the southeastern United States over the last five years. As a result, the artist generously donated one of his images to the museum. “Bacon” depicts a hog fecal waste lagoon in Warsaw, N.C., that formed as a result of waste run-off from industrial hog farming.
The Gibbes Museum of Art is at 135 Meeting Street. For information, 843-722-2706 or www.gibbesmuseum.org .
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