Shortly after Christmas and before the New Year, I received an announcement congratulating me that I am selected to participate in the upcoming Mississippi River Stories Exhibition to show at the Mississippi Watershed Management Organization (MWMO) in NE Minneapolis.
It will be a unique exhibition blending audio-recorded stories with art. Artists will be presented with a Mississippi River story as told by members of the Twin Cities community collected by the St. Thomas students through a research partnership with the St. Thomas Sustainable Communities Partnership, The Natural Heritage Project, and Mississippi Watershed Management Organization (MWMO).
The stories were collected and recorded in the Elm Tree Booth, a marvelous design created by The Natural Heritage Project. I can tell you first hand the craftsmanship that went into building the Elm Tree Booth is stunning.
Each of the stories varies in length, complexity, detail, and perspective. It is up to each of us artists to create original artwork illustrating the diverse interrelationships of people and the river. Exhibit requirements are that the work must be two-dimensional and sized at 18 x 24 inches unframed. Other than that, artists are free to visually translate the story they receive as best they can in the medium of choice.
In anticipation for my story to arrive, I have been working with watercolors and diversifying my color palette. I am not one to paint landscapes, rather landscapes within a landscape. The story could instantly bring images to mind or leave me utterly struggling with the challenge.
Along with samples of my current artwork, I needed to respond to two questions. Why would I like to participate in this exhibition; what is my connection to the Mississippi River? The answers I hope are as inspiring as the story I will be receiving.
WHY WOULD YOU LIKE TO PARTICIPATE IN THIS EXHIBITION?
Stories are the stuff that unites us where we have a chance to share knowledge and experiences and create connection and empathy. I weave stories alongside my artwork to give it meaning and to make it more relatable to others. What I find intriguing about this exhibition is the challenge. Can I, with care and respect, translate the words of another’s story into a visual representation that is clear and true? Translations often miss the nuances of meaning in the spoken word. As an artist, I believe there is a language between stories and art that everyone can feel.
WHAT IS YOUR CONNECTION TO THE MISSISSIPPI RIVER?
Throughout my life, I viewed the Mississippi River as a character found in books, poems, songs, and film. I have learned of its power, its perilous polluted conditions, and how organizations and individuals strive to preserve and restore a healthy river ecosystem. For a long time, it’s been an acknowledgment, yet a detached relationship with the river.
Not until my stepson and his young wife introduced me firsthand to the Mississippi River did I fall in love. They took me on long hikes along the area known as Crosby Farms and Fort Snelling. We all expressed how we love to hear the water lap at the shoreline, watching the water flow between its banks. The experience brings a sense of peace and groundedness. It’s like being ”away-away” without having gone anywhere.
Someone recently told me about a “Mississippi Meander,” something of an art crawl between studios dotted along the Mississippi River. I tried to find a write-up about such an event online. I didn’t find a thing about an art crawl. What I discovered were these most beautiful full-color maps illustrating how the Mississippi River meanders. I had never seen a topographic like it.
The song may call the river “Old Man River,” but I see her as a woman – with all the complexities and power to shape a nation. She has done that well. It’s our turn to treat her right.
Like all events in this COVID era, the showing dates for the Mississippi River Stories Exhibition remain flexible. It’s expected to run in the fall of 2021 or if fate has it, in early spring 2022. Watch this space for updates!
I came to your email re: Robbin Gallery late today and will respond in kind later this week.
Read your write up on Mississippi River Stories. Did the show/event happen?
My earliest water story influence was a book, Paddle to the Sea. Minnesota is geologically defined as an arid zone because.a great % of water flows out of the state than flows in.
Yes! The Mississippi River Stories exhibit did happen. There was a great turnout at the open house reception. While the Mississippi Watershed Management Organization’s headquarters isn’t exactly gallery space, they did pretty well in putting together a compelling show. The piece that I did for this exhibit is taking me further into a series.
That’s so interesting. I think of Minnesota and I think of water, lots of it. I had no idea that most of it was flowing out of state. I read a similar titled book Paddling…North I think but not sure. It was a paperback I picked up at an independent book store in Bayfield Wisconsin about a young just married couple and their adventures paddling to the artic circle. A really good read and passed it on the Little Library we have done the street from where we live.