Nicholas Baxter

Endgame IV

On April 20, 2010, the Deepwater Horizon oil spill began contaminating the Gulf of Mexico, and resisted containment for an agonizing and appalling 87 days. By the time its crude flow was contained on July 15, 2010 it was considered the largest accidental marine oil spill in the history of the petroleum industry. Its effects on the Gulf ecosystem–already compromised by ruthless industry–are still felt today.

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Photograph: U.S. Coast Guard

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Photograph: Charlie Riedel/AP

Likewise, I still feel the knot in my stomach and the lump in my throat whenever I revisit those infamous photos of oil-slicked turtles and birds, and the brown stain spreading across crystal blue waters. With no small amount of internal conflict I revel at the heartbreakingly beautiful shots of fluffy smoke plumes ascending from a smooth field of blue that recedes forever in all directions, melting into a milky white ozone haze…the artistic serenity of the scenes always belied the senseless threat to life that I couldn’t help but know was unfolding.

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Photograph: Charlie Riedel/AP

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Photograph: Gerald Herbert/AP

Equally inspired by both fragile beauty and tragic destruction, I recently painted  another in my emerging series of vessels and catastrophe, with a working title of Endgame IV:

Endgame 4

Endgame IV, oil on panel, 12 x 24in, 2013

Endgame 4 detail

Endgame IV (detail)

Meanwhile, lessons that could have been learned by the ultra-powerful, the elites, the vanguards of corporate capitalism have fallen by the wayside. Right now in my current home of Texas, a foreign corporation, TransCanada, is using the supposed 5th Amendment right of eminent domain to confiscate private land belonging to Americans in order to build a massive oil pipeline called the Keystone XL. This new profit artery will enable TransCanada to transport oil from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico, in order to sell it to countries around the world. This is, not surprisingly, what got me thinking about and eventually revisiting those Deepwater Horizon photos again during my continued search for reference material for this developing series.

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As the status quo marches on, Our world, like the pristine and fragile vessel poised on the verge of ruin, is left to wonder: is the next deepwater disaster on the horizon?

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