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John Halaka

Altered Book:

Silent Spring–Homage to Rachel Carson

Silent Spring, Rachel Carson (1962)

Recovered with carved wood blocks and inset honey bees back, and spine.

Artist Statement

“… a strange blight crept over the area and everything began to change... Everywhere was a shadow of death. The farmers spoke of much illness among their families…There was a strange stillness... a spring without voices… only silence lay over the fields and woods and marsh.”

–From Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring

My re-covering of Rachel Carson’s seminal book Silent Spring, is a meditation on the recent, current and looming ecological collapse that threatens the survival of all species. Sixty years ago, Carson systematically analyzed the patterns of our self-inflicted environmental demise and methodically presented our suicidal drive towards extinction.

A global journey toward chemical dependance continues to be fueled by the engines of powerful corporations who marketed a century of poisonous industrial farming as the answer to feeding an increasingly overpopulated planet. The highly touted corporate solutions to solving global hunger rely on cycles of heavy and repeated doses of poisonous pesticides and fertilizers to support industrially engineered seeds. The patented seeds, pesticides, and fertilizers are sold to farmers who plant them in huge fields of high-yield subsidized mono crops. They have depleted the soil (requiring even more pesticides and fertilizers to support viability) while poisoning the land, the water, and the air.

Industrial agriculture has given birth to the myriad ecological catastrophes that we and future generations are being forced to grapple with. In 1962, Carson’s existential findings were initially ignored by most people and continue to be denied by many who control the levers of our future. A few listened and acted to alter the follies of corporate greed and the public’s gluttony.

Was Rachel Carson a prophet of our impending doom, or will she be viewed as the saint of our potential survival?

Short Bio

John Halaka’s art projects incorporate drawing, painting, photography, and oral history. His images serve as visual meditations on experiences of indigenous survival, creative resistance, and cultural persistence in the face of settler-colonial erasure.

Halaka’s artwork is produced as a result of an extended personal engagement with marginalized communities and is designed to provide an arena for both the participants and the viewers to meditate on survival and resistance as conditions that shape the life experiences of displaced populations. 

John Halaka is a Professor of Visual Arts at the University of San Diego, where he has taught since 1991. He received his MFA in the visual arts from the University of Houston in 1983, and his BA in fine arts from the City University of New York Baccalaureate Program, with Brooklyn College as home school.


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