Gowanus Filth Gets Transformed Into Trippy Art

Photo: Courtesy of Steven Hirsch.
The Gowanus Canal may be one of the most polluted bodies of water in the United States — but could it also be one of the most beautiful?
Declared a Superfund site by the Environmental Protection Agency in 2010, the Gowanus has become famous for its pervasive pollution and noxious smell — and, now, its artistic possibilities, thanks to Brooklyn-born and -raised photographer Steven Hirsch. Hirsch observed that the toxic waste and chemicals on the water's surface can actually produce vibrant colors and psychedelic patterns.
"I would sit there on the side of the canal, and what looked like a giant painting by Monet would be there in front of me, hovering on the surface of the water," the artist explained of his images. Although the stench was nearly unbearable (Hirsch admits he could only stay in 20-minute increments), he was able to capture enough beauty to turn the photos into a 25-piece series entitled Gowanus: Off the Water's Surface. It's hard to imagine such allure could come from such waste, but seeing is believing. Click through to discover a different side of the Gowanus.
Gowanus: Off the Water's Surface is on display now through December 1 at Lilac Gallery, 144 Fifth Avenue (between 19th and 20th streets), 2nd Floor; 212-255-2925.

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