Installation: After Irene
After Irene is an immersive installation created to allow the viewer to experience the effects of entering a home after floodwaters recede. Installed during the month of August in the Porteous building in Portland, Maine using an unconditioned 10'x10' space, the high humidity and heat perfectly mimicked the condition many coastal residents encounter when returning home after a flood. Windows were open to allow the sounds of gulls to enter the space, and the smell of the sea to enter the room.
The floor was covered in wet sand, and a high tide line was painted around the space using watercolor, charcoal, and mud. The furniture and belongings were also soaked and the books included titles referencing flooding, natural disaster, and climate change.
Positioned neatly on the wall is a four panel encaustic painting which includes a desiccated bird that was found in the walls of the artist's barn many months after floodwaters receded. As noted by the artist, the first thing that she does when entering a home affected by flooding is to attend to the artwork as a kind of organizational start point, and a way of grounding herself. A radio plays the static of a weather station, a box fan blows humid air, and a single flashlight is perched on the corner of the fan.
Viewers were invited to remove their shoes and walk through the damp sand to explore the space. Opportunities were available to talk about FEMA, emergency management response, and what it is like to live in an area continually flooded through violent storms exacerbated by climate change and sea level rise.