all material copyright © Linda Ford 2021 unless otherwise noted

I began filling sidewalk cracks with blue cement during the spring of 2019. While I was crouched in the dark (to avoid circumspection by police or anyone who might see it as graffiti), some passersby thanked me for repairing the sidewalk and said that it was a community service. Since I’d moved back to the East Coast, I’d frequently walked by construction sites erecting concrete pillars, and noticed the huge sidewalk cracks, long neglected by the city and famous for making winter walking dangerous. Known to New Englanders as "frost heaves", they are caused by the freezing and swelling of the soil underneath. (This soil in Providence, RI is part of the ancestral homelands of the Narraganset Nation). Concrete is the most widely used construction material in the world and contributes immensely to greenhouse gas emissions. It is also used to create hard surfaces which contribute to runoff that can cause soil erosion, water pollution and flooding. As I began to photograph these tiny blue rivers taking shape, the project began to function also as an act of reclamation. The miniature rivers are waterways that once ran freely through the landscape, and which are now harnessed, diverted and dammed. I grew up on rivers and coastal waters in New England (the lands of the Nipmuc, Massachuset, Narraganset, Mohegan and Wampanoag tribes, among others). My father was an avid fly-fisherman and if we went anywhere on vacation, it was to places where one could fish. As an adult, camping on rivers became one of my favorite activities during the 25 years I lived in California (territories of the Ohlone, Nisenan, Miwok, Salinan and many others). As a result of living in a drought-ridden landscape, I became keenly aware of the ongoing pollution and destruction of waterways, as well as the rising threat to accessible clean water worldwide. Issues surrounding water are complexly circular and affect every aspect of life on our planet. Global warming and microclimates, glacial melt, floods and droughts, ground water depletion, ocean pollution and rising waters are all the result of human intervention.

During the fall of 2019, I was forced to pause this project as cement does not set in cold temperatures. By the spring, when I was thinking about resuming my late night excursions, the pandemic was ever-present and instead of filling cracks, I was spearheading a mask-making initiative, for local essential workers. In addition to thinking about climate change and the health of our water, I was preoccupied with the health of bodies. It has become painfully clear that the health of human bodies is inextricably linked to the health of the earth’s body and those of the other living creatures that inhabit it alongside us. Human bodies are and will continue to be compromised, colonized and polluted in direct proportion to the greed and abuse of the earth and its resources.

Much of my past work examines ways in which the human body holds trauma. This project examines trauma through an ecological lens. The cracks and crevices of our bodies reference the body of the earth. The gesture of cupped hands represents giving and taking, making and unmaking. Greed has pushed our interventions radically out of balance. These miniature blue rivers have become metaphors for the earth’s veins that are increasingly contaminated (as are our own) and will eventually collapse without intervention.

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