Surface Tension: Beauty and Fragility in Lake Michigan
A collaboration project between by Nelson Armour and Ted Glasoe
It’s a beautiful summer day in Chicago. The sun beats down on the azure waters of Lake Michigan, the fifth-largest lake in the world. Gentle waves lap the sands of a beach. Puffy clouds drift across the sky. But no one is in the water. The lifeguards stand watch over an empty beach.
Why? Because raw sewage has fouled the water. It was released into the lake after a torrential rain overwhelmed the municipal storm sewers. This scene has become all too common along the shores of Lake Michigan and in much of the world’s water supply.
But untreated municipal sewage overflows are only one of the threats to the health of our water. For example, according to the Alliance for the Great Lakes (greatlakes.org), other major areas of concern for Lake Michigan are nutrient runoff/algae growth, plastic and plastic microbeads, pollution from petroleum refineries and other industries, pharmaceutical pollution, and invasive species.
So we are faced with two uncomfortable realities: Lake Michigan is a beautiful, vast, life-sustaining natural wonder and, at the same time, a valuable resource under silent siege from pollution and other perils.
In Surface Tension, we explore these opposing realities. Ted Glasoe’s photographs of Lake Michigan invite us to contemplate and appreciate the lake’s power and its ever-changing moods, textures and colors. Each of these is juxtaposed with a Nelson Armour photograph of the lake altered to unsettle the viewer. These multilayered images reveal the unseen forces and traumas that threaten the lake.
Surface Tension challenges viewers to reconcile the outward beauty of Lake Michigan with the dangers that lie beneath the surface. It also asks that we all consider how our water is being polluted and what we can do to protect our water supply.