Material Histories: Rio Salado Habitat Restoration Area, 16th Street [1/4 square mile] Phoenix, Arizona + Brush Creek Road [2 miles] Snowmass Village, Colorado

This project takes as assumption that every space and every thing is connected on all sides to the whole rest of the world.

These pictures record events of exploring public space on foot. Each walk becomes a collection of objects gathered from a particular explored place. As a walker-gatherer, I am childlike, measuring value in curiosity and storing it in a shoebox under the bed. I am like a bowerbird, seduced by a brightly colored speck and the glint in the corner of an eye. I am also street sweeper, curator, naturalist, and anthropologist of my own culture and time on these walks.

Each image is a subjective and arbitrary sample of an accumulated surface up to the collecting event. Multiple histories are invoked— the gathering walk, the implied stories of how each thing came to be there, and the history of the representation and study of land. I arrange the objects as if a strong wind blew through a natural history museum display case. Things float in the void like the wild energies they rode in on—having fallen out of private ownership, public systems of recovery, or nutrient cycles, landing first on public land and then into my hands. Artifacts and engineered materials intertwine and mingle with natural resources. Stripped of their context for careful observation, the objects refer back to the places and inhabitants from which they came, becoming social and environmental mirrors.

Top photograph:

Rio Salado Habitat Restoration Area, 16th Street [1/4 square mile]

Phoenix, Arizona

44" x 156"

Archival inkjet print on bamboo paper


Bottom photograph:

Brush Creek Road [2 miles]

Snowmass Village, CO

24" x 35"

Archival inkjet print on bamboo paper


Contributor's Biography:

Julie Anand is Assistant Professor and Area Coordinator for Photography at Arizona State University. These works from her ongoing Material Histories investigations were part of the Defining Sustainability suite of exhibitions at the ASU Art Museum Fall 2009. She received her Master's of Fine Arts degree from the University of New Mexico. An interdisciplinary thinker and desert lover, she studied Ecology and Evolutionary Biology as an undergraduate before becoming smitten with photography. Having replaced the burden of proof with the celebration of subjectivity, her mixed-media and photographic artworks draw on the ecological principle of interdependency. Her work questions conventional boundaries including those between science and art, between artistic disciplines, and between the body and its environment. Her work often uses history-rich materials like wood, soil, and water to speak to the unity of things through the cycles of matter.

Memory of Water: The Salt River Project

The Salt River Project follows the Salt River from the recreation areas East of Phoenix out to the Gillespie Dam West of Phoenix. It is the story of an urban desert river. The project begins with the conceptual framework provided by high water marks. Clumps of dirt, plastic bags and plant growth five feet up in trees serve as a reminder that the dry riverbed is not dead, but only dormant. Too often in the desert, water concerns orbit around the idea that we're using up all our resources and that the dryness is a sign of the dismal future. Though transient communities have made the river channel home, and others use it as a dumping ground, sooner or later the water will rise again. Everything found in the channel is colored with this knowledge.

In exploring the Salt River bed and banks, the garbage becomes remnants and artifacts. [aslideshow] Eroded Riverbank. Phon D. Sutton Recreation Area east of Granite Reef Dam.

High Water Mark. Below the 101/202 interchange where Mesa, Tempe, and the Reservation meet.

Transient's Tent. Below the 101/202 interchange where Mesa, Tempe, and the Reservation meet.

Faded Memories. Below the 101/202 interchange where Mesa, Tempe, and the Reservation meet.

Post Flood Detritus. Salt River at Central Avenue in Phoenix.

Plastic Bag High Water Mark. Salt River at Central Avenue in Phoenix.

Dry River Bed. Salt River at 7th Ave in Phoenix.

Thirst Buster. Salt River at 7th Ave in Phoenix.

El Mirage Flooding. Salt River at El Mirage Rd west of Phoenix.

Gillespie Dam Blown Out By Flooding. Gillespie Dam."

Fish Stranded After Flooding. Gillespie Dam.


I am an archaeologist attempting to piece together the meaning of each pile of trash dumped and beer can left behind. Who, why, when? People have left marks of recreation, as well. Fire pits, beer cans, and fishing wire. Good times gone, more than just footprints left behind.

I become sensitive to the difference between different kinds of dry. The dry of the surrounding desert contrasted against the dry of the riverbed, which is filled with the memory of water.

This project is part of the Phoenix Transect Project at Arizona State University.

The project can be seen in its entirety at as well.

Contributor's Biography:

Adam Thorman was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area. He received his BFA in Photography from Tisch School of the Arts at New York University in 2003 and his MFA from Arizona State University in 2009. His work has been exhibited nationally. He currently splits his time between Berkeley, CA and Prescott, AZ where he teaches photography at Prescott College.

Arizona Testbowl: Denying Human Rights and Experimenting with the Ecological Integrity of the San Francisco Peaks

In Northern Arizona, on the slopes of the state’s highest peak, stands an on-going controversy illuminating deep cultural divides.