The American Bottom, a name derived nearly 100 years ago, defines the region that skirts the Mississippi River from Alton, Illinois south the the mouth of the Kaskaskia River. This approximately 70 mile stretch of lowland country encompasses an incredible diversity both unusually complex and directly present. This is a landscape originally occupied by the Indigenous Mississippian culture, the Mound Builders. Remnants of this vastly productive  society can still be seen in the historic Cahokia Mounds as well as lesser known but none the less significant mounds throughout the area. Later, the influence of French settlers, and industrial growth dramatically impacted the landscape. Brooklyn, Illinois is notably the first incorporated African-American city in the United States, founded in 1830 by a group of freed and fugitive slaves.

 

The force and impact of the Mississippi River cannot be underestimated in this region. The regular flooding of the land has created both some of the most fertile agricultural soil to be found, but it also has caused a regular cycle of destruction and regeneration. Late 19th and 20th century coal and steel production, oil refineries and chemical plants along with general manufacturing and industry also significantly changed the landscape. 

 

Exploring this complex and multi-faceted place is ongoing. My work here is sometimes solitary, and sometimes it is made in collaboration with others. Please visit series Significant & Insignificant Mounds, with Jesse Vogler, and the site Charting The American Bottom. I am honored to be included on this exciting and expansive project.