Over the past fifteen years, the “Ocean Parkway Serial Killer” targeted sex workers along this stretch of roadway, ultimately burying them at Gilgo Beach. It is this series of events that Nick Kline examines in his exhibit, Gilgo Beach. In a sterilized, clinical gallery space, the track lighting of a traditional gallery replaced with fluorescents, floor covered in stains that contrast the whiteness of the walls, Kline’s detailed, large-scale photographs create the air of a laboratory of a crime scene. These photographs follow the trail along the Ocean Parkway to Gilgo Beach, where Kline would take castings of the grass and landscape in rubber silicone. The distance along the macabre route that he followed would later become the title for the photograph of each casting, every image defined by the point at which it fell in the killer’s trajectory.
Most of the photographs are black and white, the contrast creating dark voids where the casted object once was, with the exception of one photograph which uses a muted, neutral palette. This contrasts the black and white of the rest of the exhibit, emphasizing the loss of color in the other photographs. Two of his monumental photographs are especially effective, overwhelming the viewer with the texture of the grass imprinted in the silicone molding. The vast size and limited palette of the photographs with the cold environment of the gallery creates an image of the landscape in the viewer’s mind – an expansive, barren beach where the women were buried. The knowledge of the now lost subject imbues these beautiful and otherwise neutral photographs with a sense of trauma.
The effect of the forensic laboratory space extends to the newspapers that his photographs have been reprinted on. These contain no information about the exhibit or the photographs themselves, emphasizing the absence of the subject and leaving the viewer to simply deal with an object. Kline states that his work examines psychological trauma and its “unseen impact on survivors” in the absence of the subject, sex workers, a group whose lives are invisible to much of society. After reading the information about the subject, the viewer is left to make connections using objects in the same way that the forensics would in the absence of these women.
Gilgo Beach creates the feeling of absence by using photographs that are expressly tangible to emphasizing the physical space around that which is gone, making its loss more apparent.