Watermark: Wood, Coal, Oil, Gas

The second exhibition I am participating in is Too Shallow for Diving: The 21st Century is Treading Water , curated by artist and educator Carolyn Speranza for the The American Jewish Museum of the Jewish Community Center of Greater Pittsburgh. As their site describes, the exhibition explores the environment, especially those issues surrounding water and its impact on our planet, human health and public welfare…  All of the artists address issues of water in their art, investigating its aesthetic qualities, its function as a source of food, its life giving essence, its cycles, climate change and its scarcity and contamination.”

In collaboration with Steffi Domike, Watermark is comprised of four panels that, as a whole, represent a concise timeline of energy resources: wood, coal, oil, and natural gas. Each of these extractive processes and their impact on water, animals, and humans is considered through a photo montage contained in the silhouette of a bass (wood), an eagle (coal/mountaintop mining), turtles (oil), and a child (natural gas/fracking). The silhouettes are roughly the same size, suggesting that whether human or animal, large or small, our bodies are vulnerable to the abuses we ravage upon the lands and waters that support all life.

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We took all the  photos near Pittsburgh, except for the aerial view of the mountaintop mining site in West Virginia (photo credit: Les Stone, Corbis News Collection ). The point of view of the images suggests how that creature might view the landscape: fish/water level, bird/aerial view, turtles/ground level, child/vista of farmland. The panels, each 60″ x 30″ were composed digitally and printed on canvas. We then distressed the backgrounds using water, which removed some of the ink, creating a sense of water drops and spray, and using latex paint leaving trace prints of plastic lids and foam tubes–a subtle suggestion of what might be floating in the water. The individual images above are the digital versions only. The installation shot shows the panels with the altered backgrounds.

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About Ann T. Rosenthal

eco/community artist, educator, writer
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