Salt City

2018. Salt prints and sculptures made with materials sourced from Syracuse, New York, including water from Onondaga Lake and paracord from Destiny USA (a megamall on the southern shore of the lake, once home to the city’s salt springs and a booming mining industry in the 19th century). During this time period, the salt print was also the dominant paper-based photographic process for producing positive prints from negatives. 

I lived in the Salt City once. It was by chance that I was placed with a refugee resettlement agency in Syracuse for a year-long volunteer program, moving from the west coast to coordinate a program for youth arriving from Bosnia, Kosovo and Cuba.

Likewise, it was by chance that their families would be resettled in Syracuse for their first experience of the States. We set up homes and apartments for them on the Northside, trying to create a sense of home with limited means in transitional spaces. I spent many afternoons driving a van around the neighborhood with the kids, discovering the city with their serenades of pop songs in broken but rapidly improving English. As I wondered about their impressions of this strange new world, I considered the same for myself, far from (but not as far from) my native coast. 

Returning many years later, a deeper look at Syracuse’s history led to the investigation of salt: not only as it relates to the city’s cultural identity but as a metaphor for considering the distillation of memory and how things “boil down.”

Charm Offensive, Random Access Gallery, Syracuse University, April 2018