Water Conversations, The Goddess Brigid, and Mayflies

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49th Uranium Mining Legacy, Remembrance Day and Action Day, Navajo Nation, Grants Mining Belt, New Mexico, USA, July 12, 2018 .

Irish visual artist and researcher Anna Macleod has spent the last 15 years exploring the environmental, economic, spiritual, political, and scientific aspects of water through interdisciplinary collaborations, performance, public interventions, and socially engaged activism. 

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What Happens When an Artist Goes to Eden

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Eden in Iraq Wastewater Garden Project (2011-present), site drawing of El Chibaish, 26,250 square meters (6.4 acres, 2.6 hectares), rendering by Bernard Du, 2017)

In 2011, photographer and environmental artist Meridel Rubenstein envisioned creating a garden in southern Iraq where the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers cross, near the supposed site of the biblical Garden of Eden. However, unlike its idyllic predecessor – a mythical paradise in a newly formed world – this new garden would help to heal what had become a fragile, desert wasteland by cleaning existing wastewater and establishing a culturally significant green space. 

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Waters of the Future

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Águas do Futuro, detail, mokuhanga on washi scroll(handmade Japanese paper), installed in Bahia, Brazil, 2018

For Brooklyn-based printmaker Florence Neal, water has always been a dominant presence in her life. She grew up in Columbus, Georgia, near the Chattahoochee River, which straddles the southern half of the Alabama and Georgia borders. There she developed an appreciation for the Native American stories about the river as well as first-hand knowledge of the negative impact that the cotton and iron mills of the past and the pervasive industrial pollution had had on its health.   

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The Last Ones Standing

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Sea-Change Installation at MARS gallery, Melbourne, Australia, 2017. Photo by Matthew Stanton

Many artists have begun making work related to the climate crisis in recent years. But Australian visual artist Penelope Davis decided to address the subject eight years ago. Originally trained as a photographer with a portfolio including mainly camera-less photographs, she turned to sculpture and the looming environmental disaster after observing her first jellyfish blooms along the Melbourne coastline. Although alarmed by what appeared to be an unnatural and terrifying phenomenon, she was also attracted aesthetically to the jellyfish’s semi-transparency and how they reflected light. 

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On Bearing Witness and Embracing Beauty

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Unprecedented, 8 ft. x 15 ft., mixed media on canvas, 2021. Photo by Joseph Hu

For over fifty years, Philadelphia-based painter, photographer, and activist Diane Burko has translated her love for large open spaces and monumental geological sites into powerful and alluring landscapes. Her exhibition at the American University in Washington, D.C. (August 28 – December 12, 2021), titled Diane Burko: Seeing Climate Change 2002 – 2021, contained 103 paintings, photographs, and time-based media depicting mountains, oceans, snow and ice, glaciers, volcanos, and fires that address the growing impact of the climate crisis.

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Elegizing Ice: Jaanika Peerna

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Glacier Elegy Brooklyn, performance in public space with three performers and audience members, one block of ice, two sculptural elements, took place at the Brooklyn waterfront, New York City, October 20, 2020

New York-based artist and educator Jaanika Peerna grew up in Estonia during the Soviet era. Her drawings, installations, and performances all embody a sense of constant movement and change, either chaotic or orderly, that personifies the elements of water, ice, wind, air, and light. Peerna attributes many of the choices she has made about the materials she uses as well as her working methods to her childhood in her native land of ice and greyscale colors along the Baltic Sea. It was there where her body learned to embrace the movements specific to gliding on ice, where she observed the varied lines that skates made on the surface of ice, and where she mastered the use of the limited art materials available in the local Soviet-style school system – especially drawing with pencils on paper. To this day, she sees all of her work as drawing, “whether it is video or light installations, placing works in a room, drawing in space, leaving lines on paper, traces of movement and now performance.”

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Revisiting HOLOSCENES During the Global Pandemic

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On May 13, 2020, in the middle of the global pandemic, the NYU Abu Dhabi Arts Center in the United Arab Emirates hosted a streaming event consisting of a four-and-a-half-hour filmed version of HOLOSCENES, a durational performance installation that was originally presented there live in November of 2016. The event also included a conversation with Lars Jan, artist, writer and project director, as well as members of his team. HOLOSCENES is comprised of performers going about common, every-day tasks while the aquarium in which they are confined fills and empties with water. Although conceived as a commentary on “states of drowning” – rising seas, melting glaciers, intensifying storms, floods, and their impact on daily life – the project takes on additional meaning as we struggle with our own physical and psychological confinements during the great global quarantine.

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The Art of Transforming Polluted Water into Clean Water, Energy, and Sound

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Gilberto Esparza at work on Nomadic Plants

Mexican visual artist Gilberto Esparza works with technology, including electronics, robotics, and biotechnology, to develop innovative solutions to the detrimental impact that humans have had on the natural world, particularly on water. His overall goal is to rethink and redo the current relationship between human society and the environment by establishing collaborations between the two. 

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Seeing Water

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Gulf of Main: Phytoplankton Breathing III, detail. Oil and phosphorescent pigments on canvas, 48” x 16,” 2017.

Krisanne Baker defines herself as a multi-disciplinary eco-artist, water activist, citizen scientist, and educator. In all of these disciplines, she has devoted herself to researching and revealing the condition and beauty of our rivers, streams, and oceans, and to advocating for their protection. 

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On Water as Polluted Body, Place of Solace, and Life Force

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sTo Len, detail of FOAM (FutureOfAMaterial) installation. Gomitaku print, sumi ink on linen, 64” x 360,” 2020.

Since June of 2017, artists Jarrod CluckGina R. FurnarisTo LenLeslie Sobel and Rachel Wojnar have been on an intense physical, emotional, spiritual, and art-making journey, which culminated with their MFA Thesis Exhibition, Confluence, on view at the Joseloff Gallery of the Hartford Art School, University of Hartford (Connecticut) from September 10-19, 2020. They are the third cohort to complete the Nomad Interdisciplinary MFA program. Founded by director Carol Padberg in 2015, the program uses an innovative field-based model and offers a curriculum that includes art, ecology, the study of place, indigenous knowledge systems, and technologies. Encompassing two hands-on residencies per year, the Nomad MFA provides courses in El Salvador; New York City; New Mexico; Mexico; Oakland, California; Miami; and Minneapolis.

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