ARTIST STATEMENT: Where some people see filth, Mark D Phillips sees artistry.
Mark’s 25-year photographic documentation - “25 Years of Gowanus: As it WAS, As it IS” - was featured during the Gowanus Open Studios Tour 2017.
Mark happened upon the Gowanus Canal in 1992, just a couple of years after moving to Cobble Hill from Florida. The waterway became a long-term photographic project, continuing throughout his 40-year career as a photojournalist. Now designated a Superfund site, the Gowanus Canal has a beauty that Mark has captured in its abandonment, grunginess, and now its resurgence.
In his early years photographing the canal, it had an eerie quality, with collapsed structures lining its banks; ISBrandtsen’s old shipping line pier, once one of the busiest in the world, barely remained above the surface of the water, a testament to the decline. The old Central Power Station of the Brooklyn Rapid Transit Company was built in 1896 and stands empty on the east bank, a grand skeleton looming high over the water. Purchased by a philanthropist, construction is underway with plans to turn it into art studios and exhibition space. Old metal piers have vanished and the silos that stood by the Carroll Street Bridge have transformed into high-end apartment complexes.
The oil still floats atop the water, joined by canoes and paddle boards. There are times when the colorful sheen stretches from bulkhead to bulkhead at the Ninth Street Bridge, creating a mosaic that resembles some of Tiffany’s finest stained glass. When the water is calm, the city reflects across its mirrored surface.
Perhaps, one day, it will become something more than an oddity.