More Work Arrives– I deepen my Commitment

Posted on 18th November 2009 by admin in River Blog

It has changed my life to be the steward of the Global Rivers Art Exchange Paintings. There are now more than 50 brilliant images in our collection. Four more amazing paintings arrived from Mexico today, and the quality of the art has exceeded my expectations all along, on this project. As the work pours in, I am struck by the intelligence of the artists’ statements and the creativity with which they express themselves about their rivers. The health of the rivers around the world is not widely publicized. This art collection starts to put into perspective the fragility of our waterways. The truth of these statements, and the love with which the artists have painted their rivers, serves to be a great healing. Didn’t we always say the truth will set us free?

I vow to share these images and their accompanying statements with you, dear blog reader — one-by-one. Here is one from Rolande Reverdy Moorehead, in Florida, that blew me away when I received it.

Fenhollaway River
The most rotten river in Florida flows into the Gulf of Mexico. In 1947, the State of Florida classified the Fenhollaway River as the only “Class 5” or “Industrial River” stating that the river’s only suitable use would be as a dumping ground for industrial waste. The state wanted to attract industries to the area.
In 1954, Procter and Gamble Company opened their pulp mill in Perry, Florida. The Buckeye Cellulose Corporation plant is located 50 miles southeast of Tallahassee, the state capital. Ever since its opening, this mill has discharged 46 million gallons of polluted wastewater into the spring-fed Fenhollaway River every day.
Discharge from the pulp mill causes unnatural coloring to the river giving it the appearance of tea. In some areas the water is black. The rotten cabbage stench from the mill spreads over a twenty mile radius. This discharge is changing the ecology of the river and of the surrounding region. Many fish species have disappeared. Wildlife breeding grounds have disappeared. The growth of natural sea-grass so important to wildlife is impaired. Where the Fenhollaway River empties into the Gulf, ten miles of shoreline in either direction is a dead zone.
The river water is very low in oxygen levels. It is salty and sulfur-tinged and also contains dioxins and endocrine disruptors at very dangerous levels. The only surviving fish-the mosquitofish which has both gills and lungs-has shown mutative changes.
Not only is wastewater from the plant causing terrible devastation to the environment, but people who live in this environment have shown well above average incidences of cancers.
ROLANDE REVERDY MOORHEAD
JUNE 2009

The Global Rivers Project Goes Cosmic

Posted on 4th November 2009 by admin in River Blog

About a year ago, I was searching for a great art show for the opening of the new Gault Fine Art Center at Martin Methodist College, in Pulaski, TN, where I teach. I had heard about the NASA Space Art Collection that the Smithsonian sends around, at a cost of $35,000. Wondering if there was an art collection at the NASA complex in Huntsville, AL, which is located a bit south of Pulaski, I made a cold call and found John Dumoulin, who is in-charge of Communication and Art Exhibits at NASA Huntsville. He was kind enough to allow me to look through their large collection, and pick out a number of paintings and scale models of spacecraft for exhibit in our maiden show at the college.

Curating the show was amazingly fun. I learned that the American Space Art Collection was started in the 1960s, to invite artists to capture the excitement of the NASA launches. As Mr. Dumoulin said, everything else being done at NASA was recorded by the scientists and technicians, but it took the artist to capture the emotion of these cutting-edge explorations. The level of the artworks is incredible, ranging from the completely abstract to photographic realism. There are imaginings of space travel in all forms and shapes; and I was able to curate a fantastic first art exhibit.

Somehow, I kept feeling as if there is a link between the Global Rivers art and the NASA show. I called Dr. Frank Six, Director of higher education at NASA, and we talked about an idea for a title that would join the two groups of work. The concept that came up was to call the combined art exhibit: The Heavens and the Earth: Truth in Space/Truth on the Ground.

At this point, the Martin College Art Club and I are responding to, and creating new artwork informed by the NASA Space Art – connecting the broad view of nebulae and star births inspired by photographs from the Hubble Space Telescope to our artwork about various rivers of the world. The juxtaposition of this macro/micro viewpoint is inspiring to the students. Our lives are being changed from working so closely with art focused on both space and the Earth’s natural environment.

Personally, I realize that I have lived my life a bit fearful of issues concerning outer space. In the past, I have had dreams of flying through endless dark space, which left me with an intense feeling to keep both feet on the ground, so to speak. However, the Hubble pictures leave us all with a feeling that space is awesome and angelic. Influenced by impressions like these, I have decided to use fiber arts to enhance the softness of the cloud formations, and mica paint to show their luminosity.

On November 10th, the Martin Art Club will host a sneak peak of our latest space art, in conjunction with the Martin Methodist College Chamber Choir, singing select songs about outer space.

Notes About our visit to Ghana

Posted on 5th September 2009 by admin in River Blog

The Danzu River
Ghana, Afrrica

The man who burst through the crowd and jumped into the arms of my traveling
companion at the Ghana airport was dressed in patchwork African fabric from
head to toe. His giant smile and exuberant greeting had the entire crowd of
people smiling at us. This was Kwami Bakoji Fornar, an amazing artist and
environmental activist of Ghana, Africa.

We had just arrived in Ghana carrying 20 paintings from intercity youth of
Cleveland Ohio. The paintings concerned the plight of the nearby Cuyahoga
River. Our mission in Ghana was to study the ecological problems of the rivers
of the Ashanti lands and gather paintings from both their most talented youth
and adult artists. Kwami was our facilitator. Six months before our journey I
had received a fax from him saying, “sister Bernice I would give my life for
chance to save the environment of Ghana.” In a matter of hours after our
meeting, I started to understand the urgency of his message.

Kwami brought us directly to the office of Johnny Aquae who is one of Ghana’s
leading environmentalists. He works for Friends of the Earth Ghana, a
worldwide organization dedicated to promoting environmental awareness. Our
education began with a shock when we read a poster that hung in Johnny’s
office. It showed a man wearing a gas mask standing in front of a landscape of
cut down trees. It said in the year 2012 Ghana will be out of fresh air, water
and firewood. Wood and charcoal are the only source of cooking fuel for most of
the population and it is already so scarce that the average woman must travel
ten miles a day on foot just to find enough wood to cook her family’s meal.
With a scarcity such as this no tree is safe in Ghana.

Tears welled up in my eyes as we traveled through the countryside and I saw the
Danzu River. Each side of the grassy banks of the once lovely Danzu are pilled
high with tons of trash. The people have been using the river as a dump for
waste of all kinds. The stench of raw sewage was unbearable and the water was
thick and gray.

Ironically, as we traveled, Kwami told us of an old Ashanti legend of a water
goddess named Mammy Water who is said to live at the bottom of the rivers. She
holds all the gold and wealth of the people. If she is respected, the people
prosper, if she is disgraced the people die. It was certainly an erie feeling
to be told this story at the same time as we viewed a river in such poor shape
as the Danzu.

The paintings from Cleveland were hung in a large room on the airy top floor
of the Cambridge International School in Kumase, Kwame’s home town. 3,000
kids attend this school, which offers classes from kindergarten all the way
through high school. The artists, both young and old, gathered to view the
Cleveland pictures, discuss their messages, and share information about their
own rivers . We learned that just outside the school a lush river used to run;
now it is the site of a dump that even overflows onto the playground. The
riverbed has been dry now for fifteen years.

For five days fifteen artists painted together as musicians played and dancers
danced . We were celebrating as we created. The children really got into the
warrior spirit of fighting for the environment with their art.
By the end of the week we had a powerful new set of paintings to add to our
collection, and we promised our hosts that we would share with people all over
the world.

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This is my latest painting of the Copper River Watershed

Posted on 3rd September 2009 by admin in River Blog

Title- The Deterioration of the Oil Pipeline

3’x4′ acrylic on Canvas  –  2009

Sleepless in Summertown

Posted on 26th August 2009 by admin in River Blog

It’s 4:30 in the morning. In a few hours I’ve got to get up and go to work. I’ve been tossing and turning for hours thinking about the Copper River Watershed, and what will happen if the oil pipelines burst. Ever since I started this project — collecting art and stories of the world’s rivers — I’ve become more blown away by the fragility of the earth’s water systems.

Each artist who sends me a painting tells a compelling story of their favorite river. Each river, like each one of us, has its wild beauty and its challenges to stay alive and healthy. What keeps me up at night is how much support, love and intelligence each of these rivers needs at this time. As I write this, I am sending a message in a bottle. Who will fight for the life of our planet’s precious treasure: clear, pure water?

My plan is to use this River Journal as a way to share these amazing river stories, hoping to find the open-hearted people who share my concern.

Thanks,

Bernice

A serious plea for the Copper River

Posted on 16th August 2009 by admin in River Blog

Dear River Friends,

The Global Rivers Art Project team, sponsored by Martin Methodist College in Pulaski, Tennessee, came home from Alaska with a heavy heart. We discovered news of a clear and present danger to the immense 700,000-acre Copper River Watershed, in southeastern Alaska. This is the area that had been devastated by the huge oil spill from the Exxon Valdez, in March of 1989.

The Alaskan Oil Pipeline lies both next to, and within, this water system for 20% of its course to Prince William Sound. The problem: The metal pipes constructed to transport the heated crude oil, under pressure, are (in 2009) 33 years old, while the planned lifetime for these pipes is only 30 years long. Leaks have already happened, and if a big spill were to take place, it could destroy the water system and ecology of that entire region.

The Global Rivers Art Project is working with Kristen Smith, Director of The Copper River Watershed Project: www.copperriver.org Kristen educated our group about the gravity of this situation. As a result of our having been informed of this potentially dire situation, we at Global Rivers Art are taking this on as a major cause.

A group of 25 paintings from The Global River Art Project collection are now at the Valdez Museum, in Valdez, Alaska. The show is due to open on Sept 15th, and will close on November 7th of this year. After that, the collection will go to Tennessee for a show at Martin Methodist College. It will be on display there until January 15th, when it will travel back to Cordova, in the spring of 2010. That summer, it is slated to travel to Mexico City, in support of the Rio Magdalena – the last living (un-dammed) river of Mexico City.

Global Rivers Art is Home from Alaska!

Posted on 15th August 2009 by admin in River Blog

 

 

 The Art Club has returned recently from our Alaska trip, where we took 25 paintings from the The Global Rivers Art Exchange Project collection to Cordova and Valdez.  The Copper River Watershed is a rich glacial river that covers 700,000 acres.  Here is a brief report on our trip. 

 

After getting settled in Cordova, our first daytrip was to visit Child’s Glacier.  An extraordinary regional painter, Jen Anne Kirchmeier, adopted us and served as our guide.  We were awe-struck, as we first looked out on that light-filled, turquoise mountain of ice.  Grabbing our journals as we left the van, we heard a crack loud as a high-powered rifle, followed by intense thunder.  The glacier was breaking off huge chunks — calving before our eyes!  A piece the size of a small room fell into the milky Copper River; and soon after, a large wave rose up out of the water and thundered toward the beach.  We were happy to be watching it all from a safe overlook far above.  Child’s Glacier calved heavily four or five times that day.  The students capped off their five-hour sketching trip with a dinner of fresh-caught sockeye salmon, which they roasted outdoors. 

 

We were fortunate to have a world-renowned artist along on this trip.  Based in Mexico City, Gerda Hansberg has been associated with The Global Rivers Art Exchange Project for two years.  She met us in Alaska, accompanied by 13 original works of art from the Mexico Biennial Artists.  These works are beautiful, and the artists’ statements are very moving.  They are a testimonial to the fact that this project has been embraced by very talented international artists. Jessie Lerner, an environmental artist from Madison, Wisconsin was also with us on the trip. She brought her gift of leadership, joy and creativity to the experience.  The Global Rivers Art Exchange Project has a presence on YouTube, which seems to be going a bit “viral,” even as I write.  People around the world have copied our slide show and posted it to their own websites.  It appears in sites from such diverse places as: Telugu, Indonesia, Russia, and the African continent; as well as on websites, such as the Wiser Earth Foundation. 

 

In closing, I invite you to view our YouTube site, the call words for which are: global rivers art. 

 

Bernice Davidson

 

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