Elegy for the Santa Maria Valley

A visual discovery of a land not thought of in a historic California place!
Date Published :
May 2022
Publisher :
George F Thompson Publishing
Contributor(s) :
Brett Kallusky, Matthew Coolidge
Illustration :
46 duotones, 1 historic photo, 1 Google Earth photo, and 1 map
Format Available    QuantityPrice
Binding : Hardback
ISBN : 9781938086878
Pages : 96
Dimensions : 8.9 X 8 inches
Stock Status : In stock


A visual discovery of a land not typically thought of in California, this debut looks at the historic Santa Maria Valley, known for its vineyards and agriculture, and associates it with the environmental cost of human need.

Landfill is a collection of eye-opening photographs made by Brett Kallusky in central California’s historic Santa Maria Valley. This body of work, however, directs our attention not to the world-renowned vineyards on the hillsides, a legacy of Spanish times, but to the vast agricultural production of row crops on the valley floor and the millions of tons of garbage and industrial refuse that finds its way to the regional landfill. The photographs of the landfill and the Valley reveal scenes that are literally hidden from public view and knowledge, underscoring their nature as documentary evidence of what is involved in growing crops that feed the nation.

Kallusky’s interest does not end there, for his depiction of this famous California landscape creates an opportunity for contemplative reflection of our complicit involvement in land use here, if only by eating the strawberries, carrots, and cauliflower that are grown in the Valley and transported to grocery stores throughout the U.S. Despite the cool formalism and detached documentary style of Kallusky’s pictures, assembled and sequenced as they are, he engages us in an extended consideration of our relationship with the land, drawing viewers into a new understanding of this place.

Given the Valley’s location near the oil-rich Pacific waters outside Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara Counties, which comprise the Valley, have had their fair share of calamitous environmental events and contaminated locations associated with oil. These include, most recently, the superfund site in Casmalia, where 4.5 billion pounds of petroleum-based and other hazardous waste were transported to a disposal facility there from 1973 until its closing in 1989, and the massive out-of-control Union Oil Tank Fires at Avila Beach in 1908 and San Luis Obispo in 1926, where three workers were killed. Kallusky renders these places anew.

Addressing the current, human-centered epoch known as the Anthropocene, the quiet but powerful imagery of Kallusky’s Landfill examines the important connection between how the land is used and regarded. The Santa Maria landscape reveals who we are, as Kallusky’s photographs bring its invisible spaces into full view, showing how the earth supports our food needs on a massive scale, fueling a cyclical engine of consumption, waste, and renewal. The Santa Maria Valley is thus a microcosm of America with ramifications far beyond its geographical boundaries. What is left in the wake of that system to which we all belong? In Landfill, the landscapes we create tell it all.

About The Author

Brett Kallusky was born in 1975 in St. Paul, Minnesota, and grew up in Afton, Minnesota. He completed his B.F.A in photography at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls and his M.F.A. in photography at Cranbrook Academy of Art. Since 2007, he has taught photography full-time while maintaining an active photographic studio practice. He is currently an associate professor of art at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls. His photographs have appeared in Aint-Bad Magazine and National Geographic Online, and his previous book is Journey with Views/Viaggio con Vista (self-published, 2014). Kallusky has been a Fulbright Fellow to Italy, received three Minnesota State Arts Board Artist Initiative Grants and numerous Faculty Professional Development Grants from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls, and is a two-time finalist for the McKnight Fellowship for Photography and Visual Arts. He resides in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Matthew Coolidge was born in 1966 in Montreal, Canada, and completed his B.F.A in geography at Boston University in 1990. He founded the Center for Land Use Interpretation in 1994, and has directed the Center from its home base in Culver City, California, since then. He lectures at numerous universities, has been on the faculty of the California College of Art, and has served on the Board of Directors of the Holt/Smithson Foundation. Under his guidance, the Center has produced dozens of publications, public programs, and exhibitions shown at its primary exhibition space in Los Angeles and at other temporary and permanent Center facilities in places that include Hinkley, California, Wendover, Utah, Houston, Texas, and Troy, New York. The Center has also presented programming at other institutions, including the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the Smithsonian Institution.

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