The Berkley Pit, located in Butte, Mont., is a 700-acre body of water that is laden with toxic metals and sulfuric acid. The Pit is a by-product of the open pit mining that was used to extract copper from the area once known as the “richest hill on earth.”
A snowstorm on Nov. 28, 2016 forced a large flock of migrating snow geese to land in The Pit and an estimated 3-4,000 birds perished after coming in contact with the toxic water. Twenty-one years earlier, in 1995, a similar weather pattern occurred. In the wake of that storm, 342 birds had died after landing on the water in the Berkeley Pit.
Salix, an industrial landscape painter, has spent that last 20 years of his career interested in the way humans create landscapes. He specifically examines the line between wilderness and people. When Salix found out about the geese that died at the Berkley Pit, he was compelled to create.
“This work was way more immediate and emotionally charged,” Salix explained.
The artwork is made of 81 sheets of recycled copper that are mounted on plywood. Salix used oil paints to depict the geese and a mixture of natural and chemical patina were incorporated into the work as well.
“The irony of this piece is the fact that the copper used in it could have originally been mined from the Berkeley Pit,” said Salix.
Salix depicted a true event through his painting and he hopes it serves as a medium to connect people to their surroundings and encourage them to look deeper into the environment they live in.
Salix worked with Montana Western Professors Rob Thomas and Jack Kirkley as well as Foundation Director Roxanne Engellant to bring this piece to campus, which now hangs on the south end of Block Hall. The UMW Foundation donated the cost of installing the artwork in the building. Montana Western’s Environmental Sciences Department in housed in Block Hall, making it a natural home for the artwork.
To contact the Montana Western foundation, please email [email protected] or call 406-683-7305.