Q-Bop Ducts with Plant Overview Looking North

Artist: Chris Dunker
Q-Bop Ducts with Plant Overview Looking North, a photo

Chris Dunker (b. 1968), Q-Bop Ducts with Plant Overview Looking North, 2004, pigment print, 24 5/16 x 24 inches, Brigham Young University Museum of Art, Museum purchase.

Commentary by Diana Turnbow
Curator of Photography

Chris Dunker’s photographs of the expired Geneva Steel Works compose evocative visual elegy of an industry that profoundly shaped the life of Utah County throughout the twentieth century. Simultaneously descriptive and metaphorical, the images emphasize the scale and complexity of the massive production facility that was situated along the shore of Utah Lake between the Oquirrh and Wasatch Mountains. Once hailed as a magnificent machine in the garden of the American West, Geneva Steel became emblematic of the demise of American industrial might.

Like post-mortem portraits of past centuries, Dunker’s photographs identify the features of Geneva Steel while musing over the fate of the facility and its former occupants. Skies overcast, Dunker’s exterior images draw upon a palette that is muted and narrow in range, suggesting the apparel of mourning. Intact buildings create a sense of wholeness and perspective that evaporate in the colossal interiors where references to the natural world are absent. A grasp of scale is lost in the vast grids of pipe, rail, and metal plinths. Corrosion seems ever-present, yet the stillness of the photographic moment literally and figuratively suggests a suspension of time and movement that is only interrupted by the curved arm of the orange excavator, which emerges as a type of grim reaper in the series. Poignantly, the images probe the disillusionment of the past and question the indeterminate future.

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