Don’t Cut Safety!, collected from the family of a petrochemical plant worker, 2015


Sea of Oil focuses on places where oil, gas, and petrochemical industries are embedded, tracing visual and narrative social cultures. Gathering stories and objects through personal exchanges with industry workers and their families, Sea of Oil looks at how oil and gas cultures intersect with everyday life, as we are faced with massive, global climate change.

In 2015 I relocated to Houston, Texas, where nearly everyone has ties to oil and gas, and began collecting and photographing corporate safety program related objects, and also videotaping massive sites of industry from car, kayak and airplane in Southeast Texas for context. In addition I am interviewing industry workers and their families, and creating transcripts from these interviews. Tellingly, many interviewees prefer that they and their companies remain anonymous in the project.


Sea of Oil (Aramco/Texas City), 2016
NTSC SD color video with sound
Excerpt: 04:20
Duration: 07:36

Performed live at the University of Houston, April 2016. Letters read aloud were written by an engineer living in Saudi Arabia during the 1973 oil crisis. Footage is of of Texas City. Screened at Aurora Picture Show Extremely Shorts Festival, May 2017.


Safety Swag

Swag is routinely given to oil and gas workers as rewards after company safety trainings and celebrations of safety achievements. The objects convey working class puns, made for those who daily put their lives on the line to benefit the rest of us.

As an artist, I am interested in sociology and anthropology, and am thinking of the photographs I am making as a tool to study the material and visual cultures revealed through these items. These safety objects are useful items made to blend into domestic space in the home. While these brightly colored objects are cheerful, the safety boasts and warnings they convey belie very real possibility for industrial accident. Interestingly, most of these objects are made in China using plastic nurdles, which is the same raw plastic material that is generated at some plants where these safety objects are distributed.


OUT OF THE SOUP FOR 6,000,000 SAFE HOURS, collected from the family of a petrochemical plant worker, 2017



Preparedness: Our Mission, YOUR Responsibility…, collected at health fair at a petrochemical plant, 2015



Buildings, signage, and infrastructure in the region celebrate industrial oil related forms — onshore and offshore drilling rigs, pipelines, and refining structures. Oil and gas form a visual identity signifying the region.


Offshore Energy Services, Inc., building with heliport modeled after offshore oil platform, Broussard, LA, 2017



Midstream Business Park 2830 FM 565, signage modeled after an oil pipeline, Mont Belvieu, TX, 2017



Mont Belvieu, water tower painted with refining towers and storage tanks. Underneath this town is a salt dome formation where massive amounts of  petrochemicals are stored and some area water wells are contaminated. Texas, 2017



Report from Houston, Settlers + Nomads, 2017

Report from Houston, Settlers + Nomads, 2016



Links to definitions and related sites of interest:

Petrocultures Research Group

Welcome to the Anthropocene

t.e.j.a.s. – Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services

American Petroleum Institute

Rex Tillerson, Secretary of State


262_Puffin 2
Funding has been made possible by the Puffin Foundation.  This project is also made possible with the support from The Idea Fund. The Idea Fund is a re-granting program administered by DiverseWorks, Aurora Picture Show, and Project Row Houses and funded by The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts.