Making art about energy: Emily Roehl on flood plains and coal ash

Today we would like to feature the work of one of our graduate students, Emily Roehl, who co-founded Mystery Spot Books, an artist publisher based in Minneapolis, Minnesota, that publishes small-run artist books, zines, and other publications about the human-altered landscape.

Over the past year, Emily has worked with Chad Rutter, her Mystery Spot Books collaborator, and St. Louis-based photographer Jennifer Colten on a new artist publication on energy and environment in St. Louis. They are currently running an Indiegogo crowd-funding campaign to help get this title in print. Take a look here.

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Detail from Flood Plain Color Field, Chad Rutter, Jennifer Colten, and Emily Roehl


Flood Plain Color Field is a new photo book and the third installment in Mystery Spot Books’ larger Energy Landscapes of St. Louis project. In this publication, Mystery Spot explores a part of our energy consumption typically unseen by the public, the residual monuments of energy waste that accumulate in the flood plains of rivers.

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Coal ash waste mound with flood waters, photo by Jennifer Colten

The coal ash mound that Mystery Spot and Colten have been documenting is currently under water. St. Louis has experienced two “100 year” floods in less than two years. In the midst of attempts to regressively dismantle the EPA and other institutional protections, it’s important to draw attention to these overlooked landscapes of industrial waste. Flood plains flood. When you pile up coal ash in a flood plain, toxic industrial waste flows downstream. You can help Emily and Mystery Spot Books tell the story of this place and of the long term impacts of industrial development on the landscape; donate and share to help publish Flood Plain Color Field.

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