Anne Neely, Spill, a painting included in the MoS Water Stories exhibit.

Anne Neely, Spill,  included in the MoS Water Stories exhibit. These paintings begin by applying paint to  limited locations on the canvas and then tilting the canvas so that gravity and the physics of flow define the backdrop for elements added later by brush.

Since July, the Museum of Science (MoS) has been home to a special temporary exhibit: Water Stories: a conversation in paint and sound. Anne Neely, an accomplished New England based artist started painting the featured land and waterscapes after reading de Villier’s Water, the Fate of our Must Precious Resource, and the exhibit space is augmented by audio compositions by Halsey Burgund that weave sound and interviews from individuals who discussed water and environmental water problems in the U.S.

It is unusual to find gallery of abstract canvases inside of a museum that focuses on science and technology, and while the MoS has hosted exhibits that merge art and science in the past, this is their first exhibit that is composed entirely of paintings.

While Neely’s landscapes are imagined, they can remind the viewer of water stories from their own lives – real experiences that occur in places we’ve been or seen in photographs or film. The museum is using those qualities to connect the art to relevant science: examining contamination through industrial spills and impacts of agricultural runoff; changing climate, glacial melt and extreme weather events; management practices that have lasting impact on groundwater resources and cause rivers to disappear; and water’s relationship to industry as a tool for the mining of other natural resources, or mining groundwater to bottle and sell.

MODIS Image of the Gulf Oil Spill offshore from New Orleans, LA (NASA, 2010)

This MODIS composite shows the Gulf oil spill near New Orleans, Louisiana, U.S.  (NASA)

Shafik Islam was invited to participate in an artist talk event for this exhibit on October 1st, and while Anne Neely discussed the process of her artwork, Shafik presented his own water stories – discussing challenges and perspectives on problems that involve water, particularly in meeting competing interests – the need to provide food to our growing planet and energy production to meet development, agricultural and industrial needs.

A recording of the artist talk will be available within the next few weeks from the MoS YouTube channel, and we’ve uploaded a modified (annotated) version of Shafik’s presentation here.

Anne Neely and Shafik Isalm

Anne Neely and Shafik Isalm during the gallery walk event

Amanda Repella

Amanda C. Repella was the Water Diplomacy Global Network Coordinator at Tufts University from 2012 – 2016.

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