Exhibitions: LaToya Ruby Frazier: A Haunted Capital

IN CONVERSATION

Our visitors respond to this 30-second video.

  • It is rare for an artist to create such an egoless narrative about the community in which they live.
    How did your mother and grand mother feel about being the subject of your art? Are the illnesses highlighted in your work, lupus and cancer, the result of industrial pollutants left over from closed mills? Can you expand on the illness of the town's economy and physical illness of the residents?

    — Sherise

    LaToya Ruby Frazier Artist replied

    Sherise, the possibilities of what artist can create are endless. The mood, rhythm and tone of an artist's work depends on the message and the intentions the artist wants to convey. I appreciate your compliment.

    Since 1872 the Edgar Thomson Plant has released toxins such as; manganese and manganese compounds, nickel and nickel compounds, lead and lead compounds, ammonia, hydrochloric acid, ethylene, zinc compounds, methanol, benzene, cyanide, chromium compounds, tetrachloroethylene, formaldehyde, coke oven emissions, arsenic compounds, carbon tetrachloride and more.

    To highlight a few; in 1987, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) classified formaldehyde as a probable human carcinogen under conditions of unusually high or prolonged exposure. Studies have shown that it is associated with types of cancer. Tetrachloroethylene, a colorless organic liquid with a mild chloroform-like odor can be found in our drinking water. With many years of exposure it increases risks of cancer. Coke Oven Emissions, Epidemiologic studies of coke oven workers have reported an increase in cancer of the lung, trachea, bronchus, kidney, prostate, and other sites. Benzene, a colorless, flammable liquid is known to cause cancer. Areas of heavy traffic, gas stations, and areas near industrial sources may also have higher air levels with benzene. Occupational exposure that includes asbestos, metals and UV radiation create risk factors for autoimmunity illnesses like Lupus.

    Sherise I am pointing out that there are a multitude of risk factors that can cause health problems. When companies are not repeatedly investigated to regulate toxicity levels we become infected. A recent report in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette links air pollution to an increased mortality rate between 2000 and 2008, "Despite federal, state and local regulatory efforts, the region's air still contains high concentrations of fine airborne particles or soot, and ozone, a precursor to unhealthy smog. And most of its population lives in an area that does not meet federal health standards limiting those pollutants."

    The way my photographs document environmental degradation, whether it be our bodies or the physical landscape of the town, the work speaks to these endured injuries. My family and I become a springboard to symbolize these greater issues of pollution, environmental negligence, and inequality in healthcare.

  • I am wondering, do you identify as a feminist? If yes / no, how do you identify yourself? I work with teens in Brooklyn and am interested in how the women in your photographs have such a dominant presence in terms of composition and responsiveness to the camera. Thanks!

    — Becky

    LaToya Ruby Frazier Artist replied

    Dear Becky, Thank you for your question.
    If we lived in a world without labels imagine how unified we would be in this nation.
    I prefer to be a human being and a citizen with rights and access to things such as healthcare, education, clean air, clean water and employment. Although I have worked predominantly in photography I have a deep love for painting. In particular my favorite paintings are by Johannes Vermeer. For more than twenty years he repeatedly painted women indoors in one corner near a window.

  • It is very rare to be moved to tears by art. But today I was moved to tears by your work: its beauty, honesty and poetry. It reminded me of the work of Graciela Iturbide, another of my fave photographers. But your work is more personal. Thank you. I don't really have a question b/c your work seems to provide so many already. And the answers are all in there.

    — Clarity

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  • What was your strength the whole way through?

    — Shirley

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  • I found your work amazing and inspiring. I have always been interested in documentary photography. How did you start this project and what was the main motivator in your life at that time?

    — Chui Yu

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