Artist Jennie Shanker Talks the Marcellus Clay Experiment

Artist Jennie Shanker spent a year and a half on a project: experimenting with Marcellus Shale as a material for sculpting.

Marcellus Shale is a rock formation at the center of controversy over the extraction of its vast reserves of natural gas, called “fracking.”

By transforming this sedimentary rock into a usable clay and ceramic, Shanker looks to “unpack the social, economic and health concerns that have divided communities concerned about drilling for natural gas,” according to an artist statement from her current show, The Marcellus Clay Experiment, at The Clay Studio in Philadelphia.

The show, on view through April 28, offers samples of the investigations, information, lessons and stories from Shanker’s exploration of the use of Marcellus Shale.

Shanker, an adjunct professor of Fine Arts and the MFA in Studio Arts at Moore, first learned about fracking while working on a project in Sullivan County, NY.

“I decided I wanted to make clay from the Marcellus Shale,” she said. “….Engaging with the material in this way has taken my practice out of the studio and connected me to people in the world that I’d otherwise have never met…scientists and geologists and a broad range of people who are involved with or affected by fracking.”

In her blog, The Marcellus Clay Experiment, Shanker chronicles all that she has learned over the past nearly two years about fracking. The blog has received over 6,000 hits.

“When I started doing this, the only information I found was from the most divergent ideological stances,” she said. “I was looking for real information. This blog has a page of links and information from both sides. It allows people to make up their own minds on the issue.”

NextCity’s Storefront for Urban Innovation will showcase an installation from the Marcellus Clay Experiment, Shale Play, from April 22 through May 18. Shale Play invites viewers to consider the complexities of the issues around the practice of fracking by providing an opportunity to see and touch the rock that has sparked such hot debate across sectors and communities.

Published on April 19th, 2013