Portrait of the Artist

Elizabeth Hoy


Polluted waterways

It Was Always Tonight, oil on panel, 24 x 24 inches, 2016

By Noelani Kirschner

April 17, 2017



Elizabeth Hoy, who lives in Brooklyn, is an A.I.R. Gallery Fellow and is represented by several galleries in Maine. 

“For the past year or so, I’ve been looking at Superfund sites, which are EPA-designated, highly polluted areas all over the country. I’ve been looking at some in Maine, New York, and most recently Vermont. So I go there and paint. The reason I started is because my parents have a cabin in the middle of nowhere in Maine. It’s a rural area, but there’s a Superfund site down the road‑an open-pit mine that is open to the ocean.

I realized that I also live next to a Superfund site in New York. I’ve known the sites are there, but I don’t really address them. They seem ignored or hidden. There’s no sign that says, ‘This is a Superfund site,’ and there’s no fence. It’s just sort of this space that isn’t used.

I’ve been painting near the Newtown Creek, which is a polluted waterway that divides Brooklyn and Queens. I’ll climb down onto a cement barrier and set up all my stuff. It’s an active commercial area, so I’ve had a lot of conversations with security guards or teenagers trying to sneak a cigarette. That’s also part of the experience for me, being in that place and getting to know those people and seeing their response to someone wanting to paint those sites, when they know how polluted they are. I feel like I can’t deny the fact that we’re all having this impact on the landscape around us. You can’t escape Superfund sites.”


Noelani Kirschner is the editorial assistant for the Scholar.

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