Corey Hagelberg’s Calumet Area of Concern

Exhibition Review

  • "Liar, Liar, River on Fire: Corey Hagelberg"

  • Beauty and Brawn Gallery, Chicago, IL
  • 06 Mar 2016 - 30 Apr 2016
Corey Hagelberg, Dead Fish Anti-Frieze (2011), woodcut, 9 x 72 inches per panel. Image courtesy the artist.

Corey Hagelberg, Dead Fish Anti-Frieze (2011), woodcut, 9 x 72 inches per panel. Image courtesy the artist.

In this spirited exhibition at Beauty and Brawn Gallery in Chicago, Corey Hagelberg uses both prints and sculpture to call attention to the predicament of the Indiana Dunes where the Grand Calumet River meets Lake Michigan. Miller Beach, where Hagleberg lives and works, is a lakeside neighborhood flanked by two steel mills in the industrial city of Gary. In his 1995 book, Environmental Inequalities, Andrew Hurley described the river as “an industrial sewer, incapable of supporting any life except for blue-green algae and sludgeworms.”1 Author Gary Ferguson recalls the river being so polluted that it once caught fire.2 Hagelberg’s exhibition title, playing with the children’s rhyme, addresses distrust in a system that allows contamination of residential neighborhoods and drinking water in socially disadvantaged places like Gary (according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 90 percent of the water emptying into Lake Michigan from the Calumet is industrial and municipal effluent, cooling and process water, and storm-water overflow).3

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  1. Andrew Hurley, Environmental Inequalities: Class, Race, and Industrial Pollution in Gary, Indiana (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1995), 34. []
  2. Gary Ferguson, The Carry Home: Lessons from the American Wilderness (Berkeley: Counterpoint Press, 2014), 1. []
  3. “Great Lakes Areas of Concern Grand Calumet River” https://www.epa.gov/great-lakes-aocs. Retrieved 2 Feb 2015. []