Support for her work has included grants and commisions by the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities, the SURDNA Foundation of New York, the Joan Mitchell Foundation of New York, Louisiana Cultural Economy Foundation, Louisiana Division for the Arts, Houma Regional Arts Council from the Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism in cooperation with the Louisiana State Arts Council and the Louisiana Division of the Arts and the Office of Cultural Development.
Michel Varisco’s large-scale photographs depict late-Louisiana in its accelerated shift towards the Gulf of Mexico. The photographs are pointers to the complex relationship between the natural and engineered environment carved out of a delicate delta system. As a native New Orleans artist, Varisco depicts her homeland through photography and installation to educate, inspire, transform and heal an ecologically and culturally rich place that’s fighting to survive.
Shifting is a series shot before, during and after the BP Deepwater Horizon oil disaster, and examines the systems of land and water management that has caused a crisis of loss within a single century. Staying on houseboats, going into marshes with fishers and flying above the Gulf in small planes while working with scientists, Varisco documents first hand what is occurring in the Southeast Louisiana’s wetlands and open waters. Nathan Martin writes of the work: “Contrary to what one might initially surmise, her photographs are not traditional nature or landscape photographs. They are photographs of functioning systems, and therefore photographs of events: the Mississippi shifting, the wetlands melting, human machinations encroaching on the natural world. A number of writers, such as Curtis White, have argued that the conversation about our ravaged environment has been hijacked by scientists, businesspeople, and politicians in such a way that the true essence—the spiritual essence, if you will—of nature’s importance has been sidelined . . . Varisco’s work steers the conversation about the environment back toward what is deeply and profoundly at stake.”
Varisco writes: “I believe humans have the capacity to restore what seems permanently lost should our imaginations and ingenuity be so inspired. It’s also my hope that we analyze the interconnectedness of these problems, as they face Louisiana, the United States and other lands around the world. We are at a critical juncture now. As an artist, I feel moved to create out of that collective anxiety of what we are doing to our planet, and by default, to ourselves.”