Debra Scacco

Water Gold Soil

May 14 - August 21, 2022

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Contemporary artist and curator Debra Scacco investigates the impact of policy, infrastructure, and societal perception on the human condition. Scacco’s interdisciplinary research-based practice is driven by the idea that everything is a line. Her work considers how lines including rivers, freeways and arbitrary political boundaries create the hierarchies under which we live. Inspired by Susannah Sayler and Edward Morris’s book Water Gold Soil: The American River, Scacco’s exhibition retraces the history and importance of water resources in California. Water Gold Soil is an investigation of the aqueduct system and damming in California. Through works based on the Colorado River, Los Angeles, and California Aqueducts this exhibition calls attention to the landscapes and communities most affected by extreme water extraction.


Scacco’s projects are born at the intersection of community, lineage, and ecology. Coming from a family of Sicilian and Southern Italian immigrants, Scacco explains, “my interest in these lines lies in my own immigrant history: in trying to understand the complicated shape of my own family, and the thousands of miles that separate us.” In this way, Scacco’s practice underscores historically undocumented lines that are often unarchived and are sometimes altogether silenced. Whether it be lines of lineage, passage, or policy, Scacco examines the historical circumstances under which these lines come to exist. Water Gold Soil interrogates the strategic structures of power that encourage the extraction of natural resources to extinction. Ultimately, she challenges viewers to contest and question these structures of permission with the aim of conveying a more accurate representation of truths and complexities of the past, and how these impact current day ecological challenges, understanding and stewardship.


Debra Scacco was born in Staten Island, New York and currently lives and works in Los Angeles. Scacco is Founding Director of climate-focussed creative research program Air, Co-Director of Getty Pacific Standard Time project Brackish Water Los Angeles, and Co-Founder of art worker trade cooperative Contemporary Art League. She frequently teaches research-led interdisciplinary courses that connect with her extensive research on water and infrastructure. Sites of public works include LAX Airport, Los Angeles State Historic Park, Art-in-Residence (Lancaster), and Olive View Restorative Care Village (forthcoming). Collections include the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), Hammer Museum, and the Creative Artists Agency (CAA).