Reflections on Water

Palm Springs Art Museum exhibit asks patrons to make personal connection to water and its link to complex ideas

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Water is the source of pleasure and play, natural wonder, and cultural symbolism.

This installation invites visitors to make personal connections and consider how their experiences with water link them to a complex network of ideas, values, and emotions.

Water defines human experience. The average person is composed of approximately 60 percent water. It nourishes life as the body’s most necessary substance.

 

Geothermal Grid, 2013, by Cristopher Cichocki.

 

This elementary liquid is essential for sustaining all life on the planet. As a result, the politics of water are woven into the fabric of social and economic institutions at both the regional and global level. Disputes over its distribution are at the center of struggles among interests competing for natural resources.

Water also defines boundaries, marking divisions in the landscape and encouraging a sense of place. It serves both a narrative and a poetic function in art. In depictions of the American West, the story of migrations, displacements, and settlements often involve water. Scenes featuring water often create the visual vocabulary of beauty and the sublime, of meditation and contemplation, of nature and culture.

 

Arthur Tress, Fish Tank Sonata Part IV.

 

Artists have long recognized the metaphoric potential of its fluid and transparent character. Rain is an especially potent condition as a visual lens that lends atmospheric effects to a scene and signals the role of perception by diffusing light.

Water is embedded in our conscious and unconscious imaginations as a symbol of our deepest hopes, dreams, and desires. Spiritual traditions rely on water rituals for healing and purification. Recognizing the spiritual associations of water, native populations identified rivers, lakes, and streams as the abode of sacred beings. In traditional worldviews, water is one of the four basic elements along with air, earth, and fire.

Within those cosmologies, it represents flowing movement and is associated with purity, healing, and cleansing. Its surface can be both calm and turbulent, a paradoxical image that suggests reflection and renewal but also violence and destruction.

 

Reflections on Water, exhibit on display through May 1, 2016 at Palm Springs Art Museum, 101 Museum Drive, 760-322-4800; www.psmuseum.org

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