In “AQI 151,” five digital photographs printed on aluminum panels are arranged in a pinwheel shape. The work’s title refers to the U.S.’s Air Quality Index (AQI), in which 151 represents a level of pollution that is unhealthy for everyone. The images, taken along the urban core that hugs the highway system in Salt Lake City, were taken on the night of Dec. 4, 2019, when Salt Lake City’s AQI measured the highest in the nation. The artist uses a digital processing technique that amplifies the noise generated by shooting with a high ISO setting so as to visualize the microscopic particulate matter in the air. The high-speed setting also captures individual vehicles, which are major contributors to bad air quality during winter inversions.
After earning his BFA from Utah State University in 2014, Peter Wiarda moved to Salt Lake City, where he has used his lens to document and investigate the changing nature of the city. In addition to his environmentally-conscious work, the artist has taken an interest in local history and recorded the changes in rapidly gentrifying industrial neighborhoods in the city.
Artists of Utah’s 35×35, Finch Lane Gallery, Salt Lake City, through Feb. 23
UTAH’S ART MAGAZINE SINCE 2001, 15 Bytes is published by Artists of Utah, a 501 (c) 3 non-profit organization headquartered in Salt Lake City, Utah.