In 1962 a coal seam under the town of Centralia caught fire – it has been burning since.
By the early 1990’s, the federal government declared eminent domain over the town, forcing the residents who remained, despite the ongoing fire, to move. Now, save for a few holdout residents, all that is left of the town is abandoned stretches of road, the remains of the coal mining operations that had once sustained the town, and the overgrown lots of those who left twenty or more years ago.
Centralia is a dumping ground for both household and construction waste and an unregulated recreational space for the surrounding communities. In places where the fire burns most actively, the ground is hot to the touch and continues to collapse and sink. Simultaneously, the traces of the town that once was there are being erased by unfettered natural growth.
It is expected that the fire will continue to burn for hundreds of years.
My work considers how landscapes that were once inhabited are transformed through the process of natural growth and regeneration. In the Centralia series, the landscapes have been damaged through human negligence and indifference and are deemed no longer suitable to be inhabited. They are left untended and unseen. Acknowledging these spaces and working to gain an understanding of how they are used and transformed is crucial in order to further our understanding of the contemporary American landscape. We have been exploiting the natural resources of this country for over 200 years and while there has long been outcry over continued sprawl and growth, little consideration is given to those landscapes that we deem to be “used up.”