Water, Community, and The Being of Human

Without water, the universal solvent that circulates through and connects all living things, none of us could exist. The urgency to protect water and reveal its power and importance has fueled my ecological art practice for close to twenty years.

My work brings plant-based water remediation for parks, rivers, and wetlands together with habitat restoration, landscape sculpture, and active community collaboration. These projects demonstrate how the undervalued resources of stormwater and other polluted water can be reclaimed to create evocative public places where people can connect with the natural systems that support our lives. My whole systems approach activates nodal points where social, cultural, and ecological revitalization meet.

Like any resilient ecosystem, my process is dynamic and adaptive to emerging conditions. Each project requires its own process and layers of collaboration. I always begin with listening–to the place itself, how it feels and functions or could function ecologically and socially, to its assets and needs. I listen to the people who will use the space, to local leaders and policy makers, and to the design, science, and social science collaborators. Through this process, the social, historical and ecological contexts that shape a place gradually unfold. The web of relationships that can be gathered, both human and non-human, is revealed. Active citizen involvement is fostered throughout the entire life of the project from conception to long-term care to catalyze creative agency and encourage sustained stewardship.

When I first started working with water in 1995 I could not convince people there was a water problem. Today it’s all too obvious that water around the world is under severe threat. Moving from devastation of the planet to its abundant regeneration demands transformation of the dominant ways humans think about what and who we are. We are actually more verbs than nouns—more interrelated processes than separate individuals. This is what I call “the being of human.” It is about recognizing and experiencing how we are but dependent parts of much larger natural patterns and forces, and living accordingly. This is not new knowledge, but we need to relearn this ancient wisdom and bring it into the contemporary context. This knowledge needs to penetrate beyond rationality. It needs to be rooted in the body and heart, the layers of our psyche where reason is shaped.