1/05/2015 Peter Durantine

Art, Activism and The Environment: Exhibition Documents Pennsylvania's Natural Gas Boom

A flare from a well at nighttime. An Amish farmer guiding his plow under an electric transmission line. An open field that slopes toward a tightly packed copse of trees speared by sunlight.

These are a few of the subjects in the photos comprising "Contested Space: Witness to Place," on display at Franklin & Marshall College's Phillips Museum of Art from Jan. 13 through March 29.

The images by local photographer Robert Lowing depict the construction of a natural gas pipeline in northern Pennsylvania's Tioga and Bradford counties, as well as areas of land -- some historic -- where the pipeline is proposed in Lancaster County.

"Lowing photographs in the tradition known as activist photography," said Professor of English Tamara Goeglein, the museum's interim director. "He's dramatizing the effects of the pipeline on the lifestyles of the property owners."

 
  • High Point, Conestoga Indiantown, Manor Township, Lancaster County,  Sept. 18, 2014. William Penn met with the Conestoga Indians somewhere near this land in 1701. It was here, in 1763, that the Paxton Boys massacred six Conestoga Indians, old men, women and children. A few weeks later, the Paxton Boys murdered 14 more from the village in Lancaster City. High Point, Conestoga Indiantown, Manor Township, Lancaster County, Sept. 18, 2014. William Penn met with the Conestoga Indians somewhere near this land in 1701. It was here, in 1763, that the Paxton Boys massacred six Conestoga Indians, old men, women and children. A few weeks later, the Paxton Boys murdered 14 more from the village in Lancaster City. Image Credit: Robert Lowing
  • Flaring Natural Gas Well, Shell Appalachia Site, Tears Rd., Bradford County, Oct. 22, 2011. The 42-inch diameter of this photograph is the same size as the pipe used in the Central Penn South natural gas pipeline. Flaring Natural Gas Well, Shell Appalachia Site, Tears Rd., Bradford County, Oct. 22, 2011. The 42-inch diameter of this photograph is the same size as the pipe used in the Central Penn South natural gas pipeline. Image Credit: Robert Lowing
  • Broad Ridge Well pads and truck roads mark the mountain ranges and forests of Northern Pennsylvania. Broad Ridge Well pads and truck roads mark the mountain ranges and forests of Northern Pennsylvania. Image Credit: Robert Lowing
  • An Amish Farmer on Creamery Road, Martic Township, May 31, 2014. The transmission tower in the background is continuous with the transmission lines in the Shanks Wildflower Preserve. An Amish Farmer on Creamery Road, Martic Township, May 31, 2014. The transmission tower in the background is continuous with the transmission lines in the Shanks Wildflower Preserve. Image Credit: Robert Lowing
  • A retired art professor at Millersville University, Robert Lowing has been photographing subjects for nearly 40 years. A retired art professor at Millersville University, Robert Lowing has been photographing subjects for nearly 40 years. Image Credit: Robert Lowing

Goeglein said the museum's mission is to present exhibits that integrate with the curriculum, and Lowing's exhibit represents an intersection of several disciplines: art, environmental science, geosciences and government.

"I'm a photographer who is concerned about social issues," said Lowing, a retired art professor who taught photography at Millersville University for 33 years. "I've used that as a central core in my own work and teaching."

Several related events will follow a Jan. 20 opening reception. F&M Professor of Art History Richard Kent will lecture at the gallery at 5 p.m. Feb. 3 on "The Engaged Eye: The Work of Robert Lowing and American Landscape Photography," in which Kent will discuss the tradition of activist photography.

"A lot of photographers are responding to the question, 'What is the landscape we're living in? How is it affected by development or industrialization?'" Kent said. "They are exploring how best to represent and document that landscape."

A screening of "Above All Else," documentary filmmaker John Fiege's chronicle of East Texans working to halt the Keystone XL pipeline, follows at 7 p.m. Feb. 23 in the Lisa Bonchek Adams Auditorium. Afterward, Lowing and Fiege will discuss the film and environmental issues.

And at 7 p.m. March 12 in the same auditorium there will be a "Contested Space" panel discussion featuring speakers with various points of view on the proposed Lancaster pipeline. They will discuss the photo exhibit and how differing perspectives come into play.

 
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