Flow: Journey Through the Mississippi River Watershed brings together five large-scale installations, by five Midwestern artists, that reveal our connections to water in unexpected ways.
Water is ubiquitous and essential to human life. Frequently we see stories of flooding and water quality featured in local and regional news reports. Arguably, the Mississippi River defines the quality of life across the Tri-State region; this major artery of water along with its massive watershed impacts everything from industry, agriculture, and recreation, to our physical health and well-being.
Removed from the customary grand vista – how rivers and bodies of water have traditionally been represented in painting and art history – the artworks in this exhibition draw inspiration from science and the fields of hydrology, water quality, and water conservation.
Reuter and Joshua Rowan of St. Louis, Missouri mark the locations of watersheds, and where streams have been harmed or buried, with fragile glass cairns, which the artists then photograph and present as ‘waterscapes’. According to Reuter, “Our work celebrates the Mississippi River basin – [covering] 40% of the continental United States – and its water wealth that provides drinking water for 50 million people and irrigation for 90 percent of agricultural exports.”
Clean Water, a site-specific installation by artist Jennifer Bates of Cedar Falls, Iowa, consists of approximately 1,500 recycled water bottles, colored a vibrant blue, that take the form of a section of the Mississippi River that extends through the Greater Dubuque region.
In two separate installations, Susan Knight of Omaha, Nebraska examines the natural and symbolic cross-currents around bodies of water. Working with plastic and paper, Knight’s works mimic the movement of water, itself, and the impacts of industry, agriculture, and recreation.
Upstream, an installation by Anna Metcalfe of Minneapolis, Minnesota, reflects the artist’s decade-long investigation of the waters of the Upper Mississippi and interest in socially-engaged art. Through an ongoing series of conversations in communities up and down the river, Metcalf collects residents’ stories and experiences related to water, which are then incorporated into ceramic tea cups.