Lori Kella

(St. Joseph, Michigan, 1974 - )

Eroding Shoreline


Digital chromogenic print on paper

20 x 40 in. (50.8 x 101.6 cm)

Collection of the Akron Art Museum

Anonymous Gift


More Information

Eroding Shoreline is part of a suite of images collectively titled “Shifting Ground,” which grew out of a preceding series titled “Vanishing Shoreline,” started by Kella in 2019. The earlier group of pictures shows the edges of Lake Erie and its tributaries through the artist’s characteristic diorama style. Kella was born in St. Joseph, Michigan on the shore of Lake Michigan and now lives in Cleveland’s North Collinwood neighborhood on a street that leads right to Lake Erie, and so she has fittingly described herself as a native of the Great Lakes and the “Vanishing Shoreline” series as “a visual homage to a horizon that has captivated me for three decades.” In her statement on the series, Kella explains that in cataloging these natural spaces in the face of pervasive (human-caused) environmental threats, the works become “a visual archive of what may disappear; and these ephemeral portraits offer contemplation on what may be, or is already lost, suggesting that paper replicas may eventually be our only reference to the once grand Great Lakes.” Through this work on the Great Lakes, Kella developed an even more specific focus for her “Shifting Ground” photographs, which she describes this way: “A continuation of the ‘Vanishing Shoreline’ series, this new collection focuses on the dramatic coastal erosion that has intensified as storms increase and protections for the shoreline vanish.” Created in 2021, Eroding Shoreline formed the keystone of this new project. Its scene is full of structures meant to slow the shoreline’s deterioration—artificial constructions paradoxically created to preserve natural conditions threatened by other artificial activity; the sort of thing Kella sees during her frequent kayaking on Lake Erie near her home (indeed, the image’s view from on the water parallels the point of view found on those excursions). As she constructed and then began dismantling the model scene that she used to create the image, Kella was inspired not only to photograph a broad view of the diorama, but to take close-up shots with shallow focus, and to photograph its deconstructed elements in suggestive arrangements on a light box. In this way, Eroding Shoreline can be seen as a richly generative image, containing a multitude of connections to real places, to additional works of art, and to Kella’s compassionate concern for the natural world in all of its details and fragility. Discussing the series as a whole, Kella writes that “The images depict the precarious balance of nature and infrastructure in our battle with the climate crisis. The beautiful, haunting, unmoored photographs become a metaphor for the ferocity of nature and our inability to halt its progress in a changing world.”