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Et in Arcadia Ego

Artist Feature of Owen McCarter

The river winds through the hills like a caught snake.

It's dark body, twisting back and forth.

It’s mouth is always open, always swallowing.

I remember when we made our own fishing rods and caught trout in the bend by the old church. We returned home beaming, holding their lifeless bodies like treasured silver. It was then that we learned more about our river, that we had killed the animals, but we could not eat them. That the mud around our ankles and on our arms was contaminated sediment. Like a day in English class we memorized new vocabulary: superfund site, bioaccumulation, Polychlorinated Biphenyl. The list went on and on, but one word stuck out. My grandfather had recently died because of this word, so I knew it. Cancer.

“Et in Arcadia Ego” centers on the Housatonic River and pollution caused by the General Electric superfund site at the river’s source. Using both documentary and constructed narrative imagery the work examines our cognition of place and identity through past, present, and anticipated future experiences. I want to question what it means to inherit toxicity? How does my generation reconcile with loss and what does our imagined future look like? The work exists within this murky area, each element a transitory symbol. The river is never the same: it is a site of death, it is a womb, it is holy water.

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