Water is everywhere around us. In streams, rivers and the oceans. We need water for everything, drinking, cleaning, agriculture, powering turbines. We cannot exist without water. In fact, we are water – about 60 percent water.
Because it is so easy to turn on our taps and get all the clean, sweet water we need, we rarely think about water, how much we use, how we use it, what other people use it for, who doesn’t have safe water, or how dangerous water can be by contamination or unleashed nature’s floods and tsunamis.
Last fall our region suffered from terrible flooding caused by hurricane Irene. This spring farmers and gardeners are anxious because the winter was so dry and there has been very little rain this spring. Drought. Water has risen to the surface of our minds.
Jane Wegscheider, founder of the Art Garden in Shelburne Falls, has spent the past few months thinking about water and collaborating with celebration artist Phyllis Labanowski to organize a community exhibit titled Drink Water, Ponder Source.
While the exhibit is interdisciplinary including written works and performances as well as images done in a variety of media, Wegscheider suspects there will be a number of beautiful waterscapes. “Beautiful images of water reflect how much we treasure water. You have to love something, to care about it, in order to work for it,” she said.
Wegscheider said she hopes the exhibit will explore the many ways we think about water, and find ways to create images for the harder issues around water. She told me about a website, http://virtualwater.eu that provides an image of how much water is used in the creation of hundreds of common items from a cup of coffee (37 gallons from coffee plant to coffee cup) to a pork chop (530 gallons from piglet to supermarket).
I have lived for different short periods of time without running water. It takes a lot of work to haul water from a well and carry it to a house to supply enough for washing and cooking. My middle daughter, Betsy, worked for the Peace Corps in Kenya helping a village lay a gravity feed line from a spring to large storage tanks they built. Women, including Betsy, no longer needed to walk a mile to get and carry water for family needs. By chance we made our visit to her village during the week one storage tank was finally ready for use. What a celebration!
We bought a ceramic water filter for Betsy to carry during her Peace Corps years so we would have fewer worries about her health and the dangers of disease from contaminated water.
Although we have given thought about and worried about water at different times, while Wegscheider was thinking about the deeper issues of water, I was thinking about how to get water into my garden. Our house is surrounded by water, streams, wells, and a pond that helped save our house from burning down on the Fourth of July in 1990. But aside from a small birdbath there is no water in my ornamental garden. A birdbath, a pool of still water is peaceful and tranquil, occasionally tempting a bird into the garden, but I long for the music of water. I long for a fountain.
Fountains can be works of art. For a while I had a lovely small solar powered fountain that I set in the Herb Bed in front of our Piazza. I loved the sound of splashing water. Then the pump died and was not replaceable. Now I am looking for another simple way to have a fountain that will provide the gentle sound of moving water.
For me the sound of water dripping, falling, and splashing is refreshing and peaceful. In the garden I look for renewal in tranquility. The sound of water is a part of that tranquility.
I am looking forward to the opening of the Drink Water, Ponder Source exhibit at the Shelburne Falls Art Walk on May 5. At 4 p.m. The Water Carriers, in a piece called this side of the flood WATERS, will carry water from the Iron Bridge and walk to The Art Garden reflecting on their love of the river, the power of water and the effects of last summer’s flood. I am looking forward to all the ways that others have responded to the theme of water.
“Community projects excite and energize me,” Wegscheider said. “There are always delightful surprises as people, who do not necessarily consider themselves ‘artists,’ take conceptual ideas and make art from them. . . . I can’t imagine not giving some visual and active form to ideas. It is how I think, and how I live. This exhibit, this work will grow from what other people bring to it.”
Full instructions for participating in this exhibit are on the Art Garden website, www.theartgarden.org. All submissions must be brought to the Art Garden by Saturday, April 28.
“Art is a way of working through an idea. This exhibit is a small drop in the bucket of thinking about the deep issues surrounding water,” Wegscheider said.
The exhibit will close with Act 2 of this side of the flood WATERS at the Shelburne Falls Riverfest on June 9.
Between the Rows – April 21, 2012