Xavier Cortada, “Stop the Beach Renourishment, Inc. v. Florida Department of Environmental Protection,” oil on canvas, 48″ x 36″, 2017

Chapter 12

Stop the Beach Renourishment, Inc. v. Florida Department of Environmental Protection, 560 U.S. 702 (2010)

Artist's Statement

This land is your land, this land is my land. This land was made for you and me.

Actually, it really belongs to water because it is made by water:

Water beats and breaks mountains. Grinds them into stone, pebbles. Into grains of sand that rush downstream and are swept out to to sea. They toss and turn up and down a water column and with the force of a crashing wave eventually land: One grain of sand multiplied across a shoreline. Until water comes and erodes that shoreline, taking the sand back to sea.

It is an endless dance, seen sharply at the waters edge, even if for a moment, as the water line recedes with the tide. It is most dramatic as it erases shorelines. The dance creates an ever-changing landscape—one that wasn’t made for us, but one we want to control so that it best works for us. So the state engages in beach restoration by dredging sand from the deep and adding it to the shoreline.

In Florida, dredging sand to beef up a shoreline may be as futile as any endeavor. Water is always in charge. Dredging sand can be as offensive to the property owners who just lost their waterfront as it is to the littoral creatures who just lost their habitat. But according to the Supreme Court, it is within government’s role to do so: Because Florida owns the seabed, there can be no taking.

In the painting for Stop the Beach Renourishment v. Florida EPA (https://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/09pdf/08-1151.pdf) there is machinery pumping sand from the deep, displacing water in ways that seem unnatural. There is water chewing away at the shoreline. Boundaries become fluid. In depicting beach resortation, the media I used mattered: I used sand I personally collected at the water’s edge to depict the original sea bed in the paintings backdrop. Then, using multi-purpose sand I purchased in a 60 pound bag at Home Depot, I created globs splattering dredged sand from the deep to depict the brutal process of artificially restoring shorelines. As that happens, water drips back in… Or is it flowing up? Indeed, more than an illustration, the media and composition make the painting a conceptual work: It is impossible to decipher what is up or down. What is land or sky? Water or sand? Where does the property line lives? Are you are looking at the work as a cross section or from a bird’s eye view? It is confusing, disorienting. All remains unresolved, as is our ability to coexist with nature. In time, sea level rise will resolve all the ambiguity.