The Central Virginian

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Sweetening the water in Contrary Creek

Posted on Wednesday, August 29, 2012 at 4:40 pm

Asa Eslocker’s art grant funded the construction and destruction of his project to benefit local waters.

Asa Eslocker used a $5,000 grant to build and subsequently destroy his Contrary Creek art project in Mineral last weekend.

The University of Virginia graduate student–majoring in architecture and design–said the project was a “contrary strategy” to conventional ecological recovery.

“In this destroyed landscape, I wanted to destroy the limestone sculpture with a wrecking ball to, in essence, use destruction to bring life and healing to Contrary Creek,” he said.

The small body of water is “arguably the worst acid mine drainage site in Virginia,” according to a Department of Environmental Quality fact sheet. The creek receives discharges from five abandoned pyrite mines that increase the water’s acidic levels and a red slime covers the stream bottom, where heavy metals are also present.

Eslocker said the 15-tons of limestone that were used in the project and now line the creek bed will help to noticeably change the acidic levels in the creek, which has been placed on the state and federal Impaired Waters lists.

But he said that it will take more than the demolition of his sculpture to effect long-term recovery, adding that’s not the intent of his project.

“It’s about culture, history, so many other ways of looking at our natural resources, our environment, and new strategies,” Eslocker said. “Hopefully, the strangeness, the novelty, the spectacle of destruction will get folks attention and force them to ask, ‘why?’”

The graduate student spent four weeks meeting with locals and designing the sculpture which is loosely-based on Robert Smithson’s “Spiral Jetty.”

Eslocker said the structure incorporated several theoretical and practical aspects. The main spiral represented how an idea forms while the spiraling base  represented the growth of that idea.

To read the entire story, see the Aug. 30 edition of The Central Virginian.