Debra Scacco

Beneath the Clay is a monument to water and earth, inspired by the artists’ research into the complex history of water that permeates all aspects of life in Borrego Springs. It is  a structure that rises from the ground as a monument, but one that is porous and creates an intimate space that literally envelops the viewer. Scacco guides your vision out to framed slivers of landscape and up through a watery, crystalline gem that refracts and casts light below and around it, inspiring new ways of seeing the land and its history in the material reality of the present.  

Thanks to Dave Duncan; Mike McElhatton and the Anza Borrego Desert Natural History Association; Jim and Mike Seley and Zane Smiley at Seley Ranches; James Dion and the Borrego Village Association; Wade Beane and the Borrego Art Institute; and Haley Elskin and the Anza Borrego Desert State Park.


Debra Scacco’s 25+ year research-based practice examines cartography as an exercise of power. Her work lives at the intersection of ecology, history and policy; in the uncomfortable space where everything is connected. She recognizes that violence against water is violence against all living beings; and recognizes the Los Angeles River as a manifestation of both colonization and resilience. Her work, in dialogue with the work of many, hopes to help us move closer to recognizing ourselves as one small participant in a vast network of living systems – all equally important – with water at their heart.

Scacco is the first civic-appointed artist-in-residence for the City of Santa Monica, in the Water Division and Resource Recovery & Recycling (RRR) (Waste) Division (2023-25). She is the recipient of a 2023-24 City of Los Angeles Master Artist Fellowship (C.O.L.A.). Her public works have been seen in the Western Mojave DesertLAX Airport and at Ellis Island. Her work features in collections including LACMA, the Hammer Museum, MOAH and CAA.