Life in the Tar Seeps: Lecture and Book Signing

March 12th at 6 pm in the BioEthics Library in Healy Hall

About the Life in the Tar Seeps Lecture and Book Signing:

Picture of Spiral Jetty sculpture at Salt Lake City, Utah created by Robert Smithson.

Join former English faculty, Gretchen E. Henderson, for this event about reperceiving watersheds to renew approaches for environmental healing.

Her new book, Life in the Tar Seeps: A Spiraling Ecology from a Dying Sea, grew from Great Salt Lake where artist Robert Smithson constructed Spiral Jetty beside seeps of raw oil. Henderson came to the seeps, of natural asphalt, after recovering from being hit by a car in a crosswalk, made of manufactured asphalt. Like the spiraling artwork that made the lake’s north shore famous, her associations of life and death, degeneration and regeneration, injury and healing congealed.

As she reexamined pressing issues that this delicate body of water revealed about the climate crisis, her sense of ecology spiraled into other ways of perceiving the lake’s entangled lives, enlivening more than this region alone. As Henderson witnesses scientists, art curators, land managers, and students working collaboratively to steward a challenging place, she grows to see the lake not as dead but as deeply alive: a watershed for shifting perceptions of any overlooked place, offering possibilities for environmental healing across the planet.

More than a reading, her talk at Georgetown will blend photography, cinema, and field studies to invite reperceiving overlooked ecologies, not only far afield but wherever we are.

In partnership with the University of Arizona Poetry Center and Kent State University’s Wick Poetry Center, she is inviting participation in Dear Body of Water: a poetic water-harvesting project to cultivate care for watersheds globally.

Books will be available at the event to purchase. Life in the Tar Seeps can also be purchased online.

You can learn more about Life in the Tar Seeps by visiting Gretchen Henderson’s website.

About Gretchen E. Henderson:

Image of author Gretchen E. Henderson in field of red flowers.

Gretchen Ernster Henderson is a multimedia writer and interdisciplinary educator who bridges environmental arts, cultural histories, integrative sciences, health and public humanities. Her fifth book, Life in the Tar Seeps: A Spiraling Ecology from a Dying Sea (Trinity University Press 2023), has been seeping across publications, exhibitions, and field practices, including Ecotone (Notable Best American Essays), Orion, Ploughshares, LA+/Landscape Architecture Plus, Holt-Smithson Foundation, Utah Museum of Fine Arts, along with co-authored publications including Nature Sustainability. Born and raised in California, Gretchen is a Senior Lecturer at The University of Texas at Austin and was 2018-2019 Annie Clark Tanner Fellow in Environmental Humanities at the University of Utah, 2022 Fellow at the Women’s International Studies Center, 2023 Aldo & Estella Leopold Writer in Residence in New Mexico, and 2023-2026 Lucas Artist Program Fellow at Montalvo Arts in California.

This event is sponsored by the Georgetown Lombardi Arts and Humanities Program, Lannan Center For Poetics and Social Practice, Medical Humanities Initiative, and the Engaged and Public Humanities Program.