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Photo by Research Graphic at UMBC

FloodZone at Albin O. Kuhn Library Gallery displays a serenely haunting display of environmental decay

Walking through the Albin O. Kuhn Library’s grand entrance and past the bustling cafe where shouts of orders from the back kitchen echo, one will find a serene calm air twisting around and pulling them underwater into the FloodZone. 

Anastasia Samoylova’s photographs, strategically placed along the walls painted in stark sections of white, pink, and green, weave a narrative that invites visitors in with a promise of paradise. Yet, as one delves deeper into the layers of Samoylova’s FloodZone, the beautiful mask it bears begins to crack from the weight of rubble and decay behind it.

The artist, born in the Soviet Union and now based in southern America, deftly captures the essence of living on the precipice of climate change. In a 2022 interview with the George Eastman museum, she details the environmental shock she experienced when moving to Florida and the subsequent desire to communicate it through photography.

Her effort to translate emotions from diverse perspectives is beyond successful in this ongoing collection. Evident through constructed still lifes like “Hand” which features a collage-like clipping of a hand placed over industrial materials contrasted with captured moments in nature such as “Concrete Erosion” where colorful mold makes a home between highway foundations. 

If the medium were a painting or sculpture, Samoylova’s picturesque details of decay might be praised as a beautiful and thought-provoking in the abstract. Yet, these are photos of our reality, one that many refuse to acknowledge. Within the tropical paradise, realtor photos shelter destruction behind wired fences, displaced wildlife wanders along the edges of a city, and never-ending rising waters wade around every corner, engulfing the once-envied landscape. Rising demand persists as people continue to plant roots in the south, while those of trees erupt from the ground. 

Samoylova transforms ordinary scenes into haunting reflections of a world grappling with the consequences of unchecked development and environmental negligence, communicating the horror of turning a blind eye.

Stepping outside the impressive exhibit and back into the inviting warm air of a campus library, one may be tempted to shake off the melancholy message and bask in the glory of an environmentally conscious university a thousand miles away from the exhibit’s subject. Yet, it lingers, knowing that eventually, one will have to step outside of this bubble. It begs the question, if when that day arrives, will there be anything to step onto? 

Anastasia Samoylova’s exhibit is open and free to the public until May 24th, and hours are available on the Albin O. Kuhn Library’s website.

Mikaela Turner is a Junior Psychology major and Staff Writer for Arts & Culture at The Retriever.

Contact Mikaela at