Nik Botkin and Paul Corbit Brown at Art Emporium

Close to 300 see-through plastic fish juxtaposed over graphic photographs of torn-down mountains make up the exhibit “Troubled Waters,” running at the Art Emporium at 823 Quarrier Stuntil mid-September.

Environmental artist Nik Botkin’s display of illuminated fish swim through the exhibition space, their bellies filled with trash mostly gathered from the waterways and walkways of West Virginia. The fish types on display are all kinds found in the Kanawha River. Inside the see-through fish is a host of trash — a dental floss container, smashed cans, beer bottle tops, a condom, cigarette butts and more. The fish on the walls of the exhibit float next to photos by Paul Corbit Brown.

Brown has long documented the swath mountaintop removal process that has cut across West Virginia. Appalachia is the second most bio-diverse ecosystem on the planet and yet it is being systematically destroyed by a cheap coal extraction method called Mountain Top Removal (MTR), and blasted rock from the process is then dumped into valley fills that often bury miles of streams. Over the last 20 years, over 500 mountains have been destroyed, and Brown has documented some of the most graphic instances of MTR.

“We didn’t want his works separate from mine. We wanted to visually give the viewer that sense of how water is, how it just flows everywhere. It’s moving into that idea of water being a cyclical entity. And what happens to the fish is happening to us — we just can’t see it immediately.”, Brown notes.