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Terry Arena

Natural Capital

Once considered a “ghost lake” in California, the torrential downpour of rain experienced in 2023 has resurrected bodies of water like Tulare Lake. It was considered one of the largest freshwater bodies west of the Mississippi before it would be depleted of its water in the 19th century through the creation of canals, dams, and ditches that would divert water from the region for agriculture. Lucrative crops like pistachios are planted on thousands of acres of the lakebed. The land that provides three quarters of our country’s fruits and nuts and one-third of our vegetables has been quietly overtaken by nature multiple times in the last hundred years.


At the crux of artist Terry Arena’s work is her environmental curiosity and the robust food economy of California’s Central Valley. Fundamental to her art inquiry is the notion of collapse and rebirth as seen in phenomena like the disappearance and resurgence of Lake Tulare. Her latest body of work, Natural Capital, explores society’s race toward the eventual depletion of our environmental resources. She investigates how humanity commodifies the natural world through its water, land, and aquifers.

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