OCT 14, 2023 - MAY 19, 2024
“Art is incredible not for itself, but in changing the artist’s relation to other things. . . perspective.”
– Walter Inglis Anderson
Soft light washes over marsh grasses as the sun crests the horizon. The inky black of the sea contrasts against a dead tree’s white, skeletal body resting in the salt water. Ripples and undulations of sediment are pushed and pulled by the tides, creating patterns that can only be seen from a thousand feet in the air.
This is the perspective of the Southern landscape that Ben Depp captures in his artwork. The artist has spent a decade photographing the disappearing wetlands of the Gulf South from a paraglider, seeking out the places where the land is steadily being absorbed and reclaimed by the sea. Join Depp in the sky and connect to these remote Southern wetlands as never before.
The southernmost areas of Mississippi and Louisiana have one of the highest rates of sea level rise in the world, putting vulnerable low-lying lands—and the people who live there—in danger of disappearing beneath the waves. Depp’s work acts as a kind of memorial to our quickly vanishing terra firma—photographic documents that are equal parts beauty and loss. Depp’s work invites viewers to see changing climate from the perspective of the birds, and to consider the importance of these Southern wetlands to all manner of intertwined ecosystems.
Much like the twentieth century artist Walter Anderson, Depp seeks out places many do not have access to or would not ordinarily venture. He captures delicate, intangible moments created by light, weather, and thousands of years of sedimentary deposits. Depp’s work also shows human interference, loss, and connection to the natural world in the forms of levees, highways, and things left behind.
Ben Depp’s first encounter with the surrealistic landscape of Southern Louisiana was from the window of a commercial airplane. From that experience, Depp began to wonder if he could capture the tragic story of erosion through aerial photographs. And so, the intrepid artist learned to fly a paraglider. He comments on this experience, stating, “The first time I flew it felt unreal. I launched by running, took off with a motor on my back and wing overhead, and one minute later I was a hundred feet in the air. I still question how a few pounds of fabric, strings, and a little gas engine can propel me to such heights.” Later, Depp found the need to venture further and built a wooden sailboat in order to reach the remote barrier islands of Louisiana. As part of his process, the artist spends hours in the air, searching for and capturing these fleeting photographic moments.
This short film charts recent developments in Depp's artistic process, which include the construction and launch of a small sailboat, in his ongoing quest to cultivate intimate perspectives of and relationship with the region's changing landscapes.
THIS LAND is funded in part by a grant from South Arts with support from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Additional support provided by the Mississippi Arts Commission.
TIDELINES: PHOTOGRAPHS BY BEN DEPP presented by
Additional support provided by Restore the Mississippi Delta.
WAMA's Exhibition Schedule is presented by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Mississippi and the Mississippi Arts Commission.