An artist and educator living in St Louis, Missouri, Jennifer Colten's ongoing body of work explores the vast Mississippi River floodplain, around the region known as The American Bottom. The name derived nearly 100 years ago, comprises the land that skirts the Mississippi River from Alton, Illinois south to the mouth of the Kaskaskia River. This approximately 70 mile stretch of lowland, encompasses an incredible diversity.
It was formerly occupied by the Indigenous Mississippian culture — the Mound Builders. Later, the influence of French settlers, farming practices, industrial growth and the companion company towns, dramatically affected the landscape.The force of the muddy Mississippi River cannot be underestimated in this region. Regular flooding of the land has created both some of the most fertile agricultural soil to be found, but it has also caused a regular cycle of destruction and regeneration.
This farmland, wealthy and fertile, is surrounded by wetland diversity. However, industrial presence has impacted the ground water and the soil composition. Late 19th and 20th-century coal and steel production, oil refineries, and chemical plants, along with general manufacturing and industry significantly changed the landscape.
Her interest is in the ecological, economic, and cultural diversity that exists in this region. I am specifically interested in how human impact relates to the current land use and environmental concerns.
This is a landscape sturdy and resilient; a landscape continually ripped bare, altered by natural as well as human-made forces. This is a landscape as open and enigmatic as the history it has endured. A landscape that continues to evolve and her ongoing work seeks to observe the changes as a way to reflect upon our 21st century position in relationship to our surrounding environments.