This project began in 2010, as an adjunct to my project “Hit and Run.” I grew up in Illinois, where the roads run long, flat and straight across open plains. In this setting, prairie wildlife and cars can easily avoid one another. When I moved to Westchester just north of New York City, however, I was confronted with a different reality, as roadkill was pervasive, and omnipresent.
With increasing habitat fragmentation, the loss of natural predators, and continual expanding of roadways, The New York D.O.T., is faced with the disposal of 25,000 deer carcasses a year from motor vehicle collisions. Traditional methods of disposal––incineration and mass graves, have become prohibitive due to cost and environmental concerns. However, a more viable and practical alternative has become available. Deer composting. “Reclaimed,” considers the practice of deer composting performed by the Department of Transportation in Ulster County NY, which composts over 800 deer carcasses a year.
Deer composting begins with layering the deer carcasses on a bed of wood chips. The pile is regularly rotated, and refreshed with new compost. Over time the carcasses biodegrade, and are generated into a stable soil compound. The newly amended soil––fertile and recycled, is then used to re-landscape the highways.
“Reclaimed” illustrates the collision between nature and humankind, and addresses the struggle to implement solutions that don’t further damage our environment. It represents a cultural attitude, a diminishing lack of consideration to co-exist with other sentient beings, and desire to preserve our environment. My work is representative of the human condition, the constant struggle to manage or eliminate suffering, whether external or self imposed; Represented through animals and nature, both of which have an innate mechanism to survive, and to continually adapt and yield to changing circumstances. Both animals and nature, are at the mercy of the actions of humankind, as is humankind itself, whose existence must bear the consequences. Perhaps our own instinct to survive will become overshadowed by our intellectual pursuits, and the race for advancement comes at the expense of the environment and ourselves––forsaking our own internal programming to survive.