For Future Generations: A plastic pollution study of Lake Erie (2020)
was created between February 2017 and September 2019 over forty beach cleanups where Oltmer documented and collected garbage along a particular stretch of Lake Erie. She created project rules to shoot and manage the trash she encountered. Oltmer shot each item center frame, and the resulting images formed the basis for twenty-four large-scale prints comprised of objects from each respective clean-up that explore fluctuations in pollution over the course of the year. She shared the data collected with a non-profit that tracks pollution in the Great Lakes. In processing the objects she found, she wanted to emphasize the objects' collective while denaturing the concept of a natural process. This led her to create synthetic fossils, which she calls "Future Fossils", formed by making molds of found rocks, then casting the trash in resin as a means to “fossilize” pollution from each individual clean-up synthetically.
By performing clean-ups and forming new material from trash, For Future Generations surfaces the ambivalent and subjective nature of contemporary narratives around environmentalism and the phenomena of non-native or synthetic objects in local waterways.
For Future Generations was funded by The Global Warming Grant awarded by the Arts Services Initiative of Western New York. It was created in collaboration with the Alliance for the Great Lakes, and detailed documentation of each clean-up was archived for future data and policy. In 2019 Oltmer founded #plasticfreebuffalo, a community beach clean-up focused on plastic pollution education, art as activism, and lifestyle changes for the health of our planet.
For future Generations was exhibited at the CEPA gallery from January 17 - Feb 15, 2020.