DIRECTOR STATEMENT (Shelby Baldock): Noah Lekas’ poem “We Got a Problem with Groundwater” struck my imagination. It’s filled with violence, anger, weirdness, and regret. In spring of 2019, I began a challenge, drawing a cartoon every day. It became an obsession, a passion. Noah really wanted me to combine these worlds. He knew there was something there. I grew up in the south — Memphis, TN — where the surreality of everyday living, the smokestacks, grey skies, burning hot sun, and a near-inescapable sense of dread becomes a part of your identity. My cartoons have always been about this connection: The doom and the comical. Noah’s writing became the perfect playground to explore that sensation, a deeper exploration into the doomed and desperate, the strange and silly, the combination of poetry and the cartoonish. I hope you walk away from it having experienced something new. That’s what I felt in Noah’s writings, what I felt in the process of illustrating and animating, and all I can say now is this: I hope you dig that feeling, too.

AUTHOR STATEMENT (Noah Lekas): We Got a Problem with Groundwater started with a painting by Donald Groscost from his “Second Nature” series. I was inspired by his aesthetic deconstruction of certain perspectives. One painting in particular immediately reminded me of the Midwest. In paintings, there is always a battle for space, it’s a visceral fight between abundance and absence. I wanted to write with a similar dedication to deconstructionism. In the case of Groundwater, its environmental, but it’s also an internal and existential conflict. In the Rust Belt, the abundance and then subsequent absence of opportunity and industry is part of everyone’s story. The same push/pull that I related to in Donald’s work is the same that I grew up in. This poem is about weathering that dichotomy and working to come out on the other side, somewhat intact.