Terry Platz 
Beacon Institute for Rivers and Estuaries 
(845) 838-1600 ext. 15 


Saturday December 13, 2014 at 5:00 PM 
Saturday December 13, 2014 at 7:00 PM 

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Beacon Institute Gallery 
199 Main Street
Beacon, NY 12508

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Gallery at 199 Main Street


Brandon Ballengée | Ghosts of the Gulf 

Artist Talk and Reception December 13, 5pm
Gallery at 199 Main Street, Beacon, NY 

Ghosts of the Gulf is an exhibit of strikingly vivid images of marine species collected in the Gulf of Mexico after the 2010 Deep Water Horizons disaster. Through the colorful art and biology of Brandon Ballengée, these once-common species seem to rise as apparitions from the depths, haunted icons of contemporary environmental chaos.

Organized by Amy Lipton of ecoartspace. Courtesy of the artist and Ronald Feldman Fine Arts, New York, NY

Join us for a free public talk and reception with the artist on Saturday, December 13 from 5-7 pm. 


The 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon (DWH) oil spill was the largest environmental disaster in the history of the United States. The Gulf of Mexico is one of the most important and biologically diverse environments in the world; it literally is a nursery for the thousands of marine species and endemic organisms that inhabit its warm waters. Likewise, as species migration patterns follow the Gulf Stream, seafood from the Gulf of Mexico is an important source of protein for millions of people in North America as well as those throughout Europe. As such, the DWH spill could not have occurred at a worse place, from an ecological and economic standpoint.

The tremendous amount of oil itself (estimated at 206 million gallons) created an immediate kill zone greater than 200 kilometers wide, wiping out enormous numbers of marine life. Even worse, BP utilized upwards of 2 million gallons of chemical dispersants such as Corexit 9500, which made the effluents as much as 52% more toxic than the oil itself and much more wide-spread. According to the Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDSs) for Corexit 9500, produced by the chemical manufacturer Nalco, no prior toxicity studies had been conducted before its use in the Gulf. However, numerous toxicology studies had previously found such dispersants teratological (causing abnormalities in species growth or structure) to marine wildlife and carcinogenic to humans. Regardless, BP applied dispersants in deep as well as surface water spreading contaminates throughout the Gulf with the flow of normal currents. Eventually, thousands of kilometers of the Gulf floor were coated with toxic sludge and over 1000 miles of fragile estuary ecosystems and beaches were impacted. A recent United States Congressional Report estimates that post clean up, almost half of the oil (over 100 million gallons) remains in the Gulf.


Ballengée, as biologist and artist, begins his process by chemically clearing and staining his marine specimens, preserving them, and placing them in an acid bath with blue stain which adheres to cartilage. Next the specimens are masticated in a digestive enzyme called trypsin, which begins the clearing of other tissues; a bath of alkaline solution with red dye bonds color with bone. The final stages transition the specimens through a series of baths from potassium hydroxide to glycerin whereby the tissues become transparent except for bones and cartilage, which are vividly dyed red and blue. The final results create a brightly colored x-ray revealing the complex architectural anatomy of these beautiful and declining species. 

IMAGE: SKATE (courtesy of the artist)

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