Water Wars

Water Wars: Science Fiction?

Water Wars – the phase itself suggests a blockbuster science fiction action film.  In fact, there actually is an Emmy award-winning, animated science fiction television series entitled, Star Wars: The Clone Wars, created by George Lucas and based on his wildly popular Star Wars films, that incorporates battle scenes taking place in the ocean waters on the imaginary Ocean Planet, Dac. Broadcast on the Cartoon Network and Disney XD, the series ran from Oct., 2008 – March, 2013.

 Water War Scene From Episode of Star Wars: The Clone Wars


Water War Scene From Episode of Star Wars: The Clone Wars

However (and sadly), the growing number of references to the phrase, “Water Wars,” that have been cropping up in the print and broadcast media for years are not referring to science fiction battles taking place in water but to the very likely possibility of real wars being fought in the near future over water resources that are predicted to become increasingly scarce as populations grow and the planet warms.

Water Wars: The Real Ones

A simple search on Google using the phrase, Water Wars, brings up hundreds of references to predicted (and current) 21st Century conflicts over water, including in-depth articles, full-length books, graphic illustrations, documentary films and even lesson plans for teachers. Sources include national and international newspapers and on-line journals/blogs as well as broadcast media, including, among many others, The New Yorker, The New York Times, Scientific American, The Guardian, National Public Radio, National GeographicPrinceton University and Aljazeera.  An especially effective graphic interpretation of the concept posted on Al-Sharq al-Awsat is shown below.

 The Next Weapon


“The Next Weapon,” Al-Sharq al-Awsat, 2010

Although each of the print and broadcast references draws attention to different geo-political, economic or human aspects of the issues surrounding the predicted dearth of future water resources, William Finnegan, in his 2002 article in The New Yorker, entitled, Letter from Bolivia: Leasing the Rain summarizes the fundamental facts as follows:

The world is running out of fresh water. There’s water everywhere, of course, but less than three per cent of it is fresh, and most of that is locked up in polar ice caps and glaciers, unrecoverable for practical purposes. Lakes, rivers, marshes, aquifers, and atmospheric vapor make up less than one per cent of the earth’s total water, and people are already using more than half of the accessible runoff. Water demand, on the other hand, has been growing rapidly—it tripled worldwide between 1950 and 1990—and water use in many areas already exceeds nature’s ability to recharge supplies. By 2025, the demand for water around the world is expected to exceed supply by fifty-six per cent.

In response to the growing concern about future wars and potential terror threats over water, the U.S. intelligence agencies, at the request of the State Department, created a report in 2012, entitled, Global Water Security. Designed to determine how water problems (shortages, poor water quality and floods) will impact US national security over the next 30 years, the report states that “water problems will contribute to instability in states important to U.S. national interests… and as water shortages become more acute beyond the next 10 years, water in shared basins will increasingly be used as leverage; the use of water as a weapon or to further terrorist objectives will become more likely”

Water Wars: Our Call

I am calling attention to the threat of future Water Wars in The Wave blog, just as Elena and I are calling attention to all existing water issues through The Wave Project, so that we can encourage, in our small way, the development of partnerships among entities sharing water resources as well as technological, economic and political solutions to water problems rather than violent conflict.

And because it’s been on my mind for a while, I began a series of drawings entitled, “The Last Frontier,”which depict my ‘take’ on the topic of Water Wars. Shown below is the third of six drawings that I’ve completed to date.

"The Last Frontier, #3" Susan Hoffman Fishman, Mixed Media on Syn Skin, 2013

“The Final Frontier, #3″ © Susan Hoffman Fishman, Mixed Media on Syn Skin, 2013

 

A Global Ocean Tragedy

Marine Debris

In our very first blog post on February 11, 2013, I referred to the vast amounts of debris that has washed ashore off the coast of Alaska and been identified as remnants from the 2011 Japanese tsunami.  But marine debris is by no means confined to Alaska’s waterfront or the result of a single event.  All of the world’s oceans and coastlines are inundated with trash, much of which is discarded plastic sweeping into the habitats of millions of animals and dramatically impacting our natural environment.

 Debris Off the Coast of Alaska from the Japanese Tsunami, 2013


Debris Off the Coast of Alaska from the Japanese Tsunami, 2013

“Gyre: The Plastic Ocean”

In an effort to call attention to what they refer to as “a global ocean tragedy,” The Alaska Sea Life Center and the Anchorage Museum have partnered to develop an innovative exhibition entitled, “Gyre: The Plastic Ocean.”  Twenty one artists from around the world were invited to participate in an expedition that combined scientific exploration with the creation of art incorporating ocean trash that they collected along the coast of South Central Alaska during the voyage. The term, ‘gyre,’ in the exhibition’s title signifies the large, swirling vortexes within the oceans that propel and disperse the debris worldwide.

Here are some images from the Gyre sea voyage showing the massive clean-up effort and the beginnings of the works of art that resulted from it.

 Gyre Artist Developing a Composition of Trash


Gyre Artist Developing a Composition of Trash

 Image of the Variety of Plastic Trash Found on the Expedition


Image of the Variety of Plastic Trash Found on the Expedition

 Artists and scientists removing trash from the Alaskan shore


Artists and scientists removing trash from the Alaskan shore

 Trash Boat


Trash Boat

In an astounding video of the Gyre expedition, produced by National Geographic, one of the artists refers to the plastic trash as the “cultural archaeology of our time, haunting the natural world in a terrifying way.” She went on to say that “there’s never been a society that’s produced so much material culture but taken the least responsibility for it,” and that “the action of cleaning a beach changes you – puts you in a position of care,” rather than as a mere bystander to the problem.

I was very much inspired by the Gyre expedition and the artists who participated in it. The exhibition will run from Feb. 7 through Sept. 6 at the Anchorage Museum and then travel to other locations worldwide.

 

 

The Pumpkin Wave

A Bit of Orange Whimsy

Sometimes we go off on a tangent from our primary Wave installations to experiment with other applications of the polycarbonate film or to react to a particular visual inspiration that one or both of us has imagined.  We did that when we created our brilliantly-colored ‘Snow Wave‘ that lay in gay contrast against the stark white of the winter landscape, and again when we installed our dramatic, vertical Rain Wave at a height of 25′ and suspended by cable across an early spring woodland setting.

This time, with a bit of whimsy on our minds, we responded to an artists’ call to create a three-dimensional interpretation of a pumpkin for an exhibition devoted solely to this iconic, orange vegetable at the historic Van Cortland Museum in Croton-on-Hudson, New York.  The exhibition was developed to coincide with the museum’s wildly popular, annual event called The Great Jack O’Lantern Blaze that traditionally attracts tens of thousands of visitors over a five week period of time and features over 5000 carved and lit pumpkins spread throughout the grounds. The 2013 Blaze and exhibition run from October 5, 2013 – November 11.

The finished Pumpkin Wave was constructed out of eight aluminum strips that are attached to a large, central cardboard sonotube and form the structure of the sculpture  The individual orange Wave pieces were originally created by visitors to the Wave installation at the National Aquarium in Baltimore on June 8, 2013.  Check out a few of these young participants using the vibrant, orange film below.

 Visitors to the National Aquarium in Baltimore on World Ocean's Day Cutting Pieces of the Wave From Orange Polycarbonate Film


Visitors to the National Aquarium in Baltimore on World Ocean’s Day, 2013: Cutting Pieces of the Wave From Orange Polycarbonate Film

And here is the striking Pumpkin Wave, lit from within and casting mysterious shadows onto the ceiling and walls.

 The Pumpkin Wave at Van Cortland Museum, Croton-on-Hudson, NY,  Polycarbonate Film, Plywood, Aluminum, 2013


The Pumpkin Wave at Van Cortland Museum, Croton-on-Hudson, NY, Polycarbonate Film, Plywood, Aluminum, Sonotube, 2013

Should Art Museums Go Interactive?

I was intrigued by two articles published this month in major media outlets that question from opposite points of view the primary purpose of art museums and the value of participatory museum experiences like The Wave.

The first, published on August 11, 2013 on the cover of the Sunday Review in the New York Times, was entitled “High Culture Goes Hands-On” and was written by Judith Dobrzynski, a freelance writer and former editor of the Times. Ms. Dobrznski states that “great museums are places of solace and inspiration,” and suggests that they are fundamentally changed when they respond to the current trend of incorporating interactive visitor experiences.  She sites numerous examples of this growing trend, including the 2011 participatory performance piece at the Museum of Modern Art entitled, “The Artist is Present,” during which thousands of museum visitors waited in long lines over the course of two months to sit across from the performance artist, Marina Abramovic, and engage in a moment of intense, silent connection.

Although the author doesn’t see the value of the Abramovic performance piece, it is a fact that many participants were moved to tears by the experience.  A documentary film, also called “The Artist is Present,” records the artist’s lengthy preparation for the project and the range of audience reactions. The Museum itself photographed the faces of the visitors each day in much the same way as we have photographed the “Faces of the Wave”at each of our installations.

 "The Artist is Present" Marina Abramovic and Visitor, 2011 Museum of Modern Art


“The Artist is Present”
Marina Abramovic and Ulay, 2011
Museum of Modern Art
Scott Rudd Photography

Incorporating a quote from a speech given by Glenn Lowry, the director of the Museum of Modern Art, in which he states that museums had to make a “shift away from passive experiences to interactive or participatory experiences, from art that is hanging on the wall to art that invites people to become a part of it,” Ms. Dobrznski is mourning the good old days when the art alone, the “masterpieces meant to outlast the moment of their making” were enough in themselves to delight the museum visitor.

The second opinion piece, “Why I Hate Museums,” by James Durston, published on August 22, 2013 on the CNN Travel Page of its website, has ignited a firestorm of responses on the site itself and in numerous on-line discussion groups for museum employees, consultants and devotees. Instead of seeing museums as places of ‘solace and inspiration’ as Ms. Dobrznski does, Durston refers to the vast majority of museums he has visited throughout the world as “cavernous rooms and deep corridors (that) reverberate with the soft, dead sounds of tourists shuffling and employees yawning” and in which there is “a climate of snobbery…” He asks, “Where’s the relevance? Why, in places designed to celebrate life and all of its variety, is there such a lack of vitality?” Mr. Durston concludes that museums should “stop relying on the supposed intrinsic value of their collections. Stop ‘presenting’ when you should be flaunting. Give me a story. Show, don’t tell.” Mr. Durston is begging for the kind of participatory experiences that Ms. Dobrzynski bemoans.

In a time when many art museums are down in attendance and looking for new ways to connect with audiences, these articles should be required reading. The first article takes the point of view of the elite, the visually literate who are able to enter these ‘hallowed’ spaces and find personal meaning in a work of art hanging before them. The operative term, “High Culture,” that is used in the title of this piece, offers an insight into why the ‘hands-on’ approach in museums is needed and is working. For many individuals, young and old, rich and poor, the thought of going into a traditional art museum to stare at paintings or sculptures with which they have no connection, is simply intimidating. They don’t have an understanding of the vocabulary and movements that comprise art history and like Mr. Durston, hate feeling like ‘ignoramuses.’

If the first goal of art museums is to get people in the door so that they can ultimately broaden their understanding and appreciation of art, then there is great value in engaging these visitors in ways that encourage them to show up.

As public artists currently bringing an interactive art installation to art museums nationwide, we have seen first-hand the simple joy that participants exude when they realize that they ‘get it’ because they ‘did it.’

 Young Man With His Piece of the Wave at the National Aquarium, 2013 Photograph Courtesy of Elena Kalman


Young Man Exuding Enthusiasm Holding His Piece of the Wave at the National Aquarium, 2013
Photograph Courtesy of Elena Kalman

 

The Wave on the Women’s Radio Network

Elena and I were interviewed recently for a half-hour radio show dedicated exclusively to The Wave. Susan Brender, the host of V is For Vitality, an internet radio program on the Women’s Radio Network, and a former television producer for CNBC and MSNBC, was especially interested in how the project came about and what impact it has on the participants who come to our sites.  She encouraged us to compare The Wave to other large scale, public art installations and challenged us to define why she and others like her should not be intimidated by art they do not initially understand. On the whole, the discussion was lively, thoughtful and far ranging.

Ms. Bender did pose one question, however, that gave me pause. Noting her understanding that the Wave was inspired by the 2011 earthquake and resulting Tsunami Wave originating in Japan, she asked me how the Japanese have responded to the project.  With a bit of hesitation and a chuckle, I answered that, so far, we haven’t heard of any reaction from Japan – not for lack of interest on their part, but because we ourselves have not yet reached out to identify a potential site that might host a Wave installation there.

 Tsunami Wave hitting Japan  Photograph from Mainichi Shimbun/Reuters Published March 15, 2011


Tsunami Wave Hitting Japan
Photograph from Mainichi Shimbun/Reuters
Published March 15, 2011

As it turns out, Ms. Bender has a number of close friends in Japan and expressed a desire to put together a second radio program on The Wave, for which she would invite us back, along with an environmental/water scientist and a Japanese scholar to discuss current global water issues and some perspectives from Japan two years after the Tsunami.

Stay tuned.  In the meantime, you can listen to the first broadcast on http://www.womensradio.com/2013/08/v-for-vitality-52/

Karen’s Wave

Karen Israel is an award-winning Connecticut pastel artist whose work is in the collections of The New Britain Museum of American Art (New Britain, CT), the Slater Memorial Museum (Norwich, CT), the CT Academy of Fine Arts (Mystic, CT) and the National Arts Club of NYC, among others.

Karen and I spent a day together recently at the Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford, CT, wandering through the galleries under the astute tutelage of our mutual friend, who is a docent there. Over lunch, I showed Karen some images of the recent Wave installation at The New Britain Museum.  Something about these images stirred her creative juices, because, this past week, Karen sent me a photo of her gorgeous pastel painting of The Wave, flying gloriously in the sky over the Museum.

Karen Israel


Karen Israel

Karen wrote the following words to express her inspiration for “Matinee,” her Wave painting.

I was intrigued by the movement of the colors and shapes created by the wind and the backdrop of the sky. I loved knowing that this installation was created as a community effort. I attempted to connect the ‘waves’ in my painting through color, line and form to symbolize this community creation. I have called this painting “Matinee” as it is what the public will be thrilled to attend in order to be awed, entertained and inspired.   There is a festive, upbeat feeling as I looked upon the Wave Installation. I hope I have communicated that feeling in my painting.

 "Matinee," Karen Israel, Pastel on Paper, 12" x 18," 2013


“Matinee,” Karen Israel, Pastel on Paper, 12″ x 18,” 2013

Elena and I are so pleased that our public art project, in addition to engaging individuals and communities on the topic of water, has also begun to stimulate new works of art based on its inherent beauty.

 

Rosie’s Wave

Meet Remarkable Rosie

Elena and I met Rosie Dubnansky on June 2 at the New Britain Museum of Art.  She is a lovely, dark-haired teenager from New Britain, CT who was participating in the Museum’s Family Day Wave-making Program.  In fact, we included a photo of Rosie at the event in our June 5, 2013 blog post entitled, ‘We Are All Connected: Faces of the Wave.”

 Rosie Dubnansky With Her Wave, June 2, 2011 at The New Britain Museum of American Art


Rosie Dubnansky With Her Pieces of The Wave, June 2, 2011 at The New Britain Museum of American Art

As it turns out, Rosie is enrolled in the Youth Drawing 101 class at the Museum and, to our great delight, completed a wonderful black and white pencil drawing of the Museum’s exterior that includes a portion of The Wave installation in full color flying over the outdoor terrace. Katy Matsuzaki, the Museum’s Coordinator of School and Family Programs, had given the class the assignment to create a line drawing of the museum, or as she called it, a ‘museumscape.’ Katy sent a photograph of Rosie’s drawing to me and suggested that we might want to include it along with the very gracious endorsement of The Wave that she wrote for us, but I thought it deserved its own blog post as the very first work of art inspired by The Wave.  I love how the delicate rendering of the leaves and The Wave contrast with the hard, rigid lines of the building and I am impressed with Rosie’s decision to limit the use of color only to The Wave in order to draw the viewer’s eye to that small area of the drawing.

WAVE by Rosie


“Exterior of The New Britain Museum of American Art With The Wave Installation,” Rosie Dubnansky, Pencil and Colored Pencil on Paper, 2013

What we didn’t know about Rosie until Katy sent me her ‘artist’s statement’ for this blog post was that she was born in Russia and that she is completely deaf.  Because she has two cochlear implants, Rosie is able to live both in the world of the hearing and the deaf. In addition to being a senior at Wethersfield High School and the Capital Region Education Council’s (CREC’s) Soundbridge Program, this remarkable young lady is studying jewelry and pottery at Wesleyan Potters in Middletown, CT, loves to create portraits, sketches and watercolor paintings and is hoping to become a professional artist. We think she has a very promising future in the field!

We Are Connected #2: The Faces of The Wave on World Oceans Day 2013

The Wave at The National Aquarium on World Oceans Day: June 8, 2013

Elena and I have just returned from creating a Wave installation at The National Aquarium in Baltimore to celebrate World Oceans Day.   Hundreds of visitors of all ages and from all over the U.S. and beyond participated in the event, which was held outside the Aquarium and alongside Baltimore’s Inner Harbor. How moving it was to see the diverse faces of  America and the world recognize their connections to one another visually through The Wave!

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We Are Connected: The Faces of The Wave

Since August of 2011, hundreds and hundreds of individuals of all ages and racial and economic backgrounds from cities and towns in Connecticut, Massachusetts and New York have participated in The Wave installations at museums, galleries, parks and schools. Some have approached the project and the task of ‘making a wave’ with initial hesitation; others have ‘jumped right in’ with confidence and enthusiasm. All walk away, however, with a smile on their faces and a new appreciation for water. They remark on the beauty of The Wave as it glitters in the sunlight and ‘crashes’ in the wind. Many say participating in the project made them feel happy. Here are some of the faces of The Wave.

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World Oceans Day: June 8, 2013

World Oceans Day: What’s That?

World Oceans Day is a day set aside each year on June 8 to celebrate the world’s five oceans (Pacific, Atlantic, Indian, Arctic, Southern or Antarctic) for their inherent value as well as for the seafood they provide, the marine life they nurture and the international trade routes they contain in order to move products around the globe.

Besides being a day of celebration, World Oceans Day also calls attention to the critical challenges we face relating to our oceans: world-wide pollution and over-consumption of fish that has resulted in threatening reductions of most fish species. It is a day to sponsor and/or attend one of over 600 events scheduled in over 55 countries all over the world with the goal of taking action by participating in efforts to clean-up shorelines, organizing conferences to disseminate information and inspiring individuals of all ages to focus on the preservation of the marine environment.

Here’s an excerpt of a message from Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General of the United Nations, on the first World Oceans Day in 2009:

Indeed, human activities are taking a terrible toll on the world’s oceans and seas. Vulnerable marine ecosystems, such as corals, and important fisheries are being damaged by over-exploitationillegal, unreported and unregulated fishingdestructive fishing practicesinvasive alien species and marine pollution, especially from land-based sources. Increased sea temperaturessea-level rise and ocean acidification caused by climate change pose a further threat to marine life, coastal and island communities and national economies.

World Oceans Day is sponsored by The Ocean Project and the World Ocean Network. The World Oceans Day website, listed above, contains a list of the participating sites, suggested resources and educational materials.

The Wave at The National Aquarium in Baltimore, MD for World Oceans Day

We are thrilled to be installing The Wave as part of World Oceans Day at the National Aquarium in Baltimore.  Located in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, the National Aquarium is expecting up to 10,000 visitors during the June 8 and June 9 weekend, many of whom will participate in World Oceans Day by making a piece of The Wave.

 

 

Annals of The Wave, #2

The Wave Installation at the New Britain Museum of American Art

Over the course of two days on May 9th and 10th, Elena and I, with the assistance of Collections Manager, John Urgo, and his crew, installed The Wave at a height of approximately 20 feet and spanning about 150 feet from front to back between the two main buildings of The New Britain Museum of American Art.

Highly visible from the entrance of the Museum, from all of the windows of both the Chase and the administrative buildings, from the café and its adjoining patio/sculpture garden and from Walnut Hill Park that is adjacent to the Museum, The Wave hangs in a series of 6 long, undulating strands. When the wind blows, the installation emits a loud, crashing roar like the sound of an incoming wave as it hits the shore. It has already been reported that visitors all the way across the park can hear The Wave rumbling in the distance.

On June 2, 2013, The Museum is holding a family day ‘wave-making’ event.  Wave pieces made that day will be added to the installation as a ‘waterfall’ cascading from the roof of the administrative building to the patio below.  As promised in my previous post, Annals of The Wave, #1, here are some ‘after’ shots of The Wave at the New Britain Museum of American Art.

 View of The Wave from the front of The New Britain Museum of American Art, #1, Courtesy of Elena Kalman


View of The Wave from the front of The New Britain Museum of American Art, #1, Courtesy of Elena Kalman

 View of The Wave from the front of The New Britain Museum of American Art, #2, Courtesy of Elena Kalman


View of The Wave from the front of The New Britain Museum of American Art, #2, Courtesy of Elena Kalman

 View of The Wave over the patio of The New Britain Museum of American Art, #1, Courtesy of Elena Kalman


View of The Wave Over the Patio of The New Britain Museum of American Art, #1. Notice the Reflection of The Wave on the Windows of the Cafe on the Right and the Shadows of The Wave on the Patio. Courtesy of Elena Kalman

 Detail of The Wave Over the Front of the New Britain Museum of American Art With Reflection in the Windows. Courtesy of Elena Kalman


Detail of The Wave Over the Front of the New Britain Museum of American Art With Reflection in the Windows. Courtesy of Elena Kalman

 Detail of The Wave at The New Britain Museum of American Art, Courtesy of Elena Kalman


Detail of The Wave at The New Britain Museum of American Art, Courtesy of Elena Kalman

 

 

 

Annals of The Wave, #1

Why Annals of The Wave?

Many people over the last year and a half have asked us how we go about selecting the location for The Wave at a specific site and how we design and install the site-specific installation.  So, in response to these questions, I’ll be devoting a post or two, periodically, to that process and calling it, ‘Annals of The Wave.’

The Wave at the New Britain Museum of American Art: May 11, 2013 – August, 2013

On a very cold and gray February day, Elena and I visited the New Britain Museum of American Art (NBMAA) in New Britain, CT to determine where and how we would install The Wave. We had just received word that The Wave was a ‘go’ and our goal on that day was to decide, along with the Museum staff, what was the most appropriate space for it.  All of us had previously agreed that an outdoor setting in May would be ideal for several reasons: (1) The Wave will greatly enhance the outdoor experience of the Museum and can remain in place through the end of the summer; and (2) 600 pieces of The Wave in the installation at the NBMAA were created by New Britain’s Gaffney Elementary School students, teachers, staff and parents and will be up when New Britain students and parents attend the Museums’ annual student art exhibition in June.

Elena and I had originally thought that we’d create a multi-colored ‘waterfall’ cascading off the facade of one wall adjacent to the Museum’s patio and sculpture garden that would ultimately spill onto the nearby grass and dissipate into a ‘pool.’ Learning that day that none of the walls would be appropriate since The Wave there would either block an important sidewalk egress or compete with sculptures already in place, we came up with an even more exciting plan: to construct an enormous, undulating ‘wave’ over the patio itself, using a fan-shaped wire framework connected from the rooftops of the two Museum buildings.  Adding to the appeal of this design is the fact that the patio is used during the spring, summer and fall as an outdoor cafe′ and The Wave would serve as a ‘canopy’ over the entire space.

The three photos below show two versions of the Museum’s patio in February as viewed from several directions and one image of the wire framework suspended by the Museum staff that we will use when we install The Wave later this week.

 Patio of New Britain Museum of American Art, February, 2013


Patio of New Britain Museum of American Art, New Britain, CT, February, 2013, #1

 Patio of New Britain Museum of American Art, February, 2013, #2


Patio of New Britain Museum of American Art, New Britain, CT, February, 2013, #2

 Wire Structure for The Wave, Suspended Over NBMAA Patio, April, 2013, Courtesy of Kathryn Matsuzaki


Wire Structure for The Wave, Suspended Over NBMAA Patio, New Britain, CT, April, 2013, Courtesy of Kathryn Matsuzaki

Stay tuned for ‘after’ photos showing the space with The Wave installed.

Homage to the Earth: Earth Days 1970 and 2013

Earth Day 1970: Public Art 101

Forty three years ago when the first Earth Day was held, I was just finishing up my freshman year at Trinity College in Hartford, CT. As part of the celebration, which would ultimately mark the beginning of the modern environmental movement, our sculpture professor required that we design and implement a bio-degradable, site specific, outdoor installation.  Of course, the concepts, ‘site specific’ and ‘installation’ were brand new to the contemporary art world as was the idea of ‘bio-degradable’ materials. I didn’t know at the time that what we were assigned to do could also be classified as Public Art and that so many years later I would be immersed in a large public art project and remembering my first, primitive attempt in that discipline today, on Earth Day 2013.

After a limited survey of the common substances familiar to us that might fall into the category required, my classmate, Leslie, and I decided to collaborate on a jello sculpture. (Yes, even then I was prone to collaboration.)  It seemed silly to us at the time and hardly worth the monumental effort it required to make, refrigerate and transport the product of 100 boxes of red jello.  It was a warm day on April 22, 1970 when the sculpture was installed on the concrete walkway outside our dorm, and the jello melted appropriately as required.  I wish I had a photo of the actual sculpture to document the moment, but picture this: large 12″ x 18″ slabs of red jello piled on top of each other at various angles to a height of about 3 feet, shining brilliantly in the sun.  The image below will give you a general idea of what it looked like.

 Red Jello, Cubed


Red Jello, Cubed

I remember fellow students mocking our efforts and those of our classmates as they passed by. None of them connected the ‘art’ to a statement promoting a ‘green’ environment and conservation of the Earth’s resources. Quite frankly, Leslie and I didn’t either. We were just completing the assignment. I am grateful now, though, to that professor for forcing us to pay attention by commemorating that historic day. Happy Earth Day 2013.

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The Color of Water in Nature and in Art

Is Water Blue?

Well, that depends. Because of it’s intrinsic molecular structure, water is generally tinted a pale blue. But it can take on different hues when it contains impurities, bacteria and other natural or unnatural substances or by reflecting what is above its surface.

A section of the Colorado River at Marble Canyon in Arizona is colored by algae that blooms in the spring, turning the water a deep, hooker’s green.

 The Colorado Canyon, Arizona, at Marble Canyon


The Colorado Canyon, Arizona, at Marble Canyon

The Emerald Lakes on Mt. Tongariro, a compound volcano in New Zealand, contain large deposits of surfur, which ‘paint’ the water a beautiful shade of turquoise.

 Emerald Lakes, Mt. Tongariro, New Zealand


Emerald Lakes, Mt. Tongariro, New Zealand

On September 6, 2012, a portion of the Yangtze River, the third longest river in the world, suddenly turned beet red near the city of Chongquing. Scientists debated the cause: some attributed the frightening color to sediment forming upstream and traveling downstream; others suggested that microorganisms in the water were the culprit; many blamed industrial pollution. Bloggers and other media sources even proposed at the time that the strange phenomenon was the result of a biblical curse.

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The Yangtze River at Chongquing, September, 2012,

Oceans and lakes reflect the multiple colors in the sky, creating a mirror effect in the water.

sunsets 19How Do Artists Depict The Color of Water?

Over the last century, as part of modern art movements such as impressionism, fauvism, and pointillism, etc., artists have taken great liberties in rendering what they perceive to represent the color and nature of water. Here are some notable examples.

Georges Braque, the 20th century French painter who began his career as an impressionist, later embraced the Fauvist style and ultimately co-founded the movement known as cubism, created this image, entitled, “Landscape near Antwerp” in 1906.  The striking mauve, yellow and red colors of the water and the bold strokes of the paint suggest a highly emotional responses to the scene, characteristic of the Fauve approach to painting.

 "Landscape near Antwerp," Georges Braque, 1906


“Landscape near Antwerp,” Georges Braque, 1906, Collection of The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, NYC, 60 x 80 cm.

French impressionist, Claude Monet, created 250 paintings in his Water Lily series, depicting the gardens and landscape of his beloved home at Giverny. In this one, entitled, “The Water Lilies – Setting Sun,” Monet used soft yellow, mauve, blue and green colors, reflecting the gorgeous light of the sky on the lily pond at the end of the day.


“The Water Lilies – Setting Sun,” Claude Monet, 1914 – 1926, Collection of the Musee de l’Orangerie, Paris, 78.74″ x 236.22″

David Hockney, a British-born Pop artist, worked for a period of three decades from the 1960′s through the 1980′s on a series of paintings of swimming pools set in California landscapes. The swimming pool paintings reflected his fascination with the ‘utopian’ popular culture of the sunny, California lifestyle. Using vibrant colors that were filled with the suggestion of sunlight, Hockney’s presented his own version of water, chlorinated and sanitized within the man-made, concrete version of a ‘swimming hole.’

 "A Bigger Splash," David Hockney, 1967, 95.5" x 96"


“A Bigger Splash,” David Hockney, 1967, 95.5″ x 96″

Of course, I couldn’t end this post without a reference to the way in which Elena and I have depicted the color of water. In 2012, we completed twelve, 4′x 8′ sequential paintings on paper, entitled “Mid-Summer Day’s Dream,” a mixed-media, visual narrative relating the experience of an ordinary day interrupted by a life-changing event. The painting shown here is the seventh in the twelve-part series. Using red, pink, yellow, purple, black, white, brown and multiple shades of blue and green, we created an image of the moment in which the hesitant viewer of the narrative finally plunges into the force of an approaching wave.


“Plunge,” Painting 7 of 12 in “Mid-Summer Day’s Dream,” Susan Hoffman Fishman and Elena Kalman, Acrylic and Mixed Media on Paper, 4′ x 8,’ 2010 – 2012

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

‘Rain Waves

April Showers

It’s April and, as a tribute to ‘April Showers,’ Elena and I created a Rain Wave. Rain never looked so stunning or so hopeful. The installation emphasizes the brilliance of rain, which provides vital moisture for the land, fills our reservoirs, ponds, rivers, lakes and streams for human and animal consumption and nourishes our lives.

 Rain Wave Photograph Courtesy of Elena Kalman


Rain Wave,  Susan Hoffman Fishman and Elena Kalman, 2013
Photograph Courtesy of Elena Kalman

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Rain Wave,  Susan Hoffman Fishman and Elena Kalman, 2013
Photograph Courtesy of Elena Kalman

 Rain Wave, Susan Hoffman Fishman and Elena Kalman Photography Courtesy of Elena Kalman


Rain Wave, Detail, Susan Hoffman Fishman and Elena Kalman, 2013
Photography Courtesy of Elena Kalman

 Rain Wave, Detail, Susan Hoffman Fishman and Elena Kalman, 2013 Photograph Courtesy of Elena Kalman


Rain Wave, Detail, Susan Hoffman Fishman and Elena Kalman, 2013
Photograph Courtesy of Elena Kalman