It was the Deep Water Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico that inspired two friends to create IMA’s newest show. Curator Jeanne Falk-Adams and Barbara Cox, artist agent, created Fragile Waters at IMA April 23 – Sept. 5.
“We need water, clean water. It isn’t possible to live without it,” said Falk-Adams.
The idea behind Fragile Waters, Falk-Adams said, was to connect people through the arts, portraying the beauty of water, from rivers and wetlands to the oceans, letting them draw their own conclusions. To accomplish this, the show combines the work of her father in-law, Ansel Adams, Ernest Brooks II and Dorothy Kerper Monnelly, interspersed with quotes to give people what Falk-Adams describes as breathing room, to process the information.
“This show gives people the opportunity to explore and investigate the issues on their own. It has been an adventure seeing how people react,” Falk-Adams said.
Included in the show are two photos Ansel Adams took when he was a teenager, and an endearing letter he wrote to his father discussing his work.
Photos from Ernest Brooks II include underwater images of sea lion pups greeting each other in the antarctic, and off the coast of California. “I wanted to show our commonalities,” Falk-Adams said.
Each of these photographs tells a story, according to Falk-Adams. Brooks, for example tells the story behind photographs of a harbor seal, Spot. He was snorkeling in August 1990 in the kelp beds off Anacapa Island. Nestled in the giant kelp was a harbor seal, “Light graced her face, and her expression was priceless” Brooks said. After taking her picture, Spot swam close by, stealing his heart. They have had interactions since, including when she brought her pup by. Brooks said the times spent with Spot over the years are among the most inspirational for him.
“Water has been the essence of my life,” Brooks said, “from the young years of swimming, diving and surfing off the coast of the Channel Islands.”
Monnelly echos those sentiments, “Water is linked to all life. Protecting the quality and quantity of water has become a significant responsibility of each of us.”
Monnelly was drawn to black and white photography because of its graphic simplicity. Similar to Brooks, black and white photography is a universal language, timeless, everlasting and simplistic in form.
“As a Fine Arts artist,” Monnelly says, going back to the topic at hand, “I am drawn to water because of beauty and the ever changing imagery that it embodies.”
One of Monnelly’s tale’s illustrates the effort artist go through, and the difficulty working with water, “I suddenly realized the tide had come creeping up while I had my head under the dark cloth and my backpack with all my gear was under water,”.
Fragile Waters is wrapping up its two year stint across the country. Falk-Adams hopes audience goers take away something positive about what they can control.