As part of the 2023 Bombay Beach Biennale, Kathy Sherman Suder unveiled her latest permanent installation in the California desert, entitled “TOXIKON”. A work of art dedicated to showcasing the looming environmental crisis, that is the chemical poisoning of the Salton Sea, which has ravaged the surrounding Bombay Beach community and surrounding Southern California cities over the last 50 years. Open 24/7 in Bombay Beach, California.
TOXIKON, is a poison apothecary - a piece of artistic activism that is infused by memento mori, an artistic or symbolic trope acting as a reminder of the inevitability of death. Suder produced over 100 glass bottled elixirs containing the toxic remnants of plant & wildlife she gathered from the shores of the Salton Sea. Much of the fish and birdlife that once populated the state’s largest lake have decayed beyond all recognition since a sudden die off due to a climate disaster. Barnacles, fish bones, and the occasional salt encrusted bird feather have been preserved in glass and suspended in oil, followed by a dip & seal process in wax. These elixirs are shelved and on permanent display for viewing inside the steel walls of TOXIKON, which sits near the Salton Sea beach.
TOXIKON is timely – as the planet is likely to cross a critical threshold for global warming in the next decade. We’ve seen unprecedented natural disasters in recent years that scream for attention and change.
The weathered structure for this installation piece is wrapped in rusted steel that once protected Suder’s art studio in Venice Beach, California. After a long recovery from a life-changing brain injury, she was unable to make work for an extended period of time and had to stop her creative practice for a number of years. The reuse of the materials that once protected and beautified her creative space is an intentional nod to her appreciation for what continues to serve, the pain of letting go, the growth and connection she found in nature and the transcendence that comes with healing.
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