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Continental Drift


July 15, 2011

This geologic boundary has no regard for political allegiance; it was not determined by wars, by financial interest, or national demarcation.

Continental Drift: Iceland/California portrays moments of quiet anticipation in settings that shift between the wild and the contained, the fertile and the barren, the geologic and the human. The dichotomy creates a visual tension, prompting questions and dialogue pertaining to the uneasy relationship between geologic force and the limits of human intervention.

I am interested in how boundaries, either naturally occurring or those imposed upon the land, demarcate difference. Currently, I am photographing along the shifting edges of the North Atlantic Continental Plate: the eastern boundary in Iceland where it meets the Eurasian Plate and the San Andres Fault in California where it meets the Pacific Plate. This geologic boundary has no regard for political allegiance; it was not determined by wars, by financial interest, or national demarcation. It is a boundary that cannot be controlled or contained by human intervention; rather, forces deep in the earth determine it.

In Iceland, the North American Plate is moving westward, creating new crust as magma pushes up from the mantle. Geologically, this marks a divergent boundary, characterized by splitting earth, steaming hot water, and a young lava landscape almost devoid of trees. The land is unstable and raw.

In California, the Pacific plate is sliding north relative to the North American plate. Consequently, in many millions of years, Los Angeles will be where San Francisco is now. While this transformative plate boundary is characterized by earthquake activity, it lacks the spectacular drama of a divergent boundary such as what is found in Iceland. The landscape is often mundane, striking in its ordinariness. Housing developments built on top of the fault seem to deny the reality of the unstable earth below the surface. The ordered, built environment ignores the actuality of the land, a dangerous disconnect.

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Marion Belanger has been the recipient of a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship, a John Anson Kittredge Award, an American Scandinavian Fellowship, and Connecticut Commission on the Arts Fellowships. She has been an artist-in-residence at the MacDowell Colony, the Atlantic Center for the Arts, the Virginia Center for the Arts, and Everglades National Park. Her photographs are included in many permanent collections such as the Library of Congress, the Corcoran Museum of Art, the Yale University of Art, the New Orleans Museum of Art, and the International Center of Photography. Her book of photographs Everglades: Outside and Within, with an essay by Susan Orlean, was released by the Center for American Places at Columbia College and the University of Georgia Press in 2009. She resides in Guilford, Connecticut.

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