WaterWorks at LBI Foundation of the Arts and Sciences

By PAT JOHNSON | Jul 31, 2019
Artwork by: Allen Bentley ‘Held in the Undertow’ oil on canvas by Allen Bentley.

Loveladies — Water influences so much of our daily thoughts and long-range plans here on LBI, but do we appreciate its beauty, its fragility and the impacts of climate change? The WaterWorks exhibition at the Long Beach Island Foundation of the Arts and Sciences answers these questions as it presents the myriad facets of water expressed by contemporary artists.

To quote Daniella Kerner, executive director and co-chair of Arts and Exhibitions, “The WaterWorks exhibition explores the immense impact of water on all life forms, as our most basic component that sustains us, providing pleasure and at times becoming a forceful threat.”

Two female artists who have married art with science are painter/photographer Diane Burko and Rebecca Rutstein. These women explorers have traveled to Antarctica (Burko) and the depths of the sea in a submersible (Rutstein), then made art of their experiences.

In order to alert us to global warming, Burko painted “Arctic Melting, July 2016” using satellite images of storms over the Arctic produced by NASA as reference material. She used crackle medium to enhance the fragile nature of the ice flow. Burko has traveled to visit glaciers in Norway to inform her paintings on climate change and also to Antarctica as an educator for the nonprofit “Students on Ice” project.

In an interview on YouTube, Burko explains her role as a eco-artist is “to get people thinking about issues through the language of painting. Art is about visual signals.”

Rutstein has used sonar images of the ocean floor to create a series of nine paintings, “R/V Falkor and R/V Atlantis series,” that hold together as one visual statement.

From her website bio, “Rutstein has been an artist-in-residence in Iceland, Hawaii, the Canadian Rockies, Washington’s San Juan Islands, California’s Santa Cruz Mountains and along the banks of the Gihon River in Vermont. Most recently she has collaborated with scientists as an artist-in-residence on board research vessels sailing from the Galápagos Islands to California, Vietnam to Guam, in Tahiti, off the Pacific coast of Costa Rica and in Mexico’s Gulf of California. It was on these latter expeditions that Rutstein made her first dives over a mile below to the ocean floor aboard Alvin, a fully submersible, 3-person vessel able to withstand the crushing pressure of the extremes of the deep ocean. Her ongoing collaborations with scientists through residencies and workshops has been funded by the National Science Foundation, National Academies of Science/Keck Futures Initiative, Ocean Exploration Trust and Schmidt Ocean Institute.”

Marguerita Hagan’s series “Le Mer” of diatoms and marine animal “shields” clustered on one wall are made of porcelain – seemingly fragile, yet rock hard. The intricate sculptures play with scale, making tiny plankton visible and a whale’s eye human-size. Hagan “explores life of the ocean from the bioluminescent creatures of the abyss to the exquisite and mighty microscopic beauties in the sunlit zone.”

Manju Schandler’s mixed media works such as “Oil Spill 1” are angry visual shouts at our consumption of fossil fuels.

Stacy Levy’s oblong “Lenticular” is a photograph printed on lenticular plastic. Lenticular plastic is what those funny Cracker Jacks prizes were made of that would shift images as you moved them. In this case, Levy has used the technology to create the shimmering movement of waves, creating a simple but exciting “porthole” of the sea on any wall. Levy is a seasoned eco-artist; last year she installed a flock of floating buoys on the Schuylkill River as part of her “Tide Field Art.” Strings of three different-colored buoys were anchored on one end in the river to reflect the high, middle and low tide of the river: When the tide was high, only the red buoys were visible; at middle or flux tide, the green buoys joined the red ones; and when low, the blue buoys were added. The floating buoys looked like caterpillars moving on the surface and gave people a visual clue to what was going on in the river.

“Spiral Wetland,” a floating garden of wetland plants completed in an Arkansas lake, paid homage to “Spiral Jetty,” the first and most famous earthwork by Robert Smithson. But it also cleaned up pollutants in the lake by providing sedges that sucked up nutrients from stormwater runoff and also provided shelter for fish, turtles and birds.

Check out her website.

Other artworks in WaterWorks speak to the love of coastal areas and the power of water.

Sydney Drum’s triptych “Untitled” combines a panel of intricately painted water going over a falls, a small abstract panel of tranquil waves and a digital photo-collage of waterfalls to “engage the viewer in a dialog about these different approaches in contemporary artwork.”

Photographer Valda Bailey’s “Hebridean Shallows” is of Scotland’s most rigorous landscape shrouded in fog. UK photographer Rachael Talibart grew up in a yachting family. Her photos of a riotous Atlantic Ocean make us glad to be on dry land.

Two local photographers have been given a large, well-deserved presence in this show: Chris Pfeil and Greg Molyneux. Pfeil’s subtle black and white shots of the shoreline, salt marsh and Pinelands swamps are visual poetry. Molyneux prefers color photography but is no less sensitive to the beauty of New Jersey’s coast.

Painters Allen Bentley and Joe Sweeney both take the traditional path: Bentley finds joy in painting underwater swimmers, and Sweeney is a plein air painter from the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts who is teaching at the LBIF this summer.

In conjunction with WaterWorks, the LBIF also presents a documentary, “Paris To Pittsburgh,” on Thursday, Aug. 8, at 8 p.m., free to the public. This National Geographic film focuses on climate change and the politics of energy. WaterWorks is on exhibit through Aug. 11.

patjohnson@thesandpaper.net

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