So many streams seemed to be flowing together, into one river.
Groenke was intrigued. “I’d never heard of World Water Day. I looked it up and came upon The Water Project, a nonprofit organization right there in Concord [New Hampshire] that brings wells and water to South Saharan Africa. I thought I’d check them out and see if they had a place to have an exhibit.” The building, as it turned out, wasn’t really workable for an art exhibition, “but the staff was really excited to talk about what they’re doing and there’s a lot of energy there.”
The next October, she read The Water Princess, a children’s book by Susan Verde, illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds. "It’s the story of a model named Georgie Badiel, a former Miss Africa and activist from Burkina Faso, and her childhood dreams of bringing fresh water to her village. The Water Project was working to put in a well in Burkina Faso. It kept coming up.”
All these streams were carrying her toward this exhibition, and when she followed them back to their source, Groenke recalled her past as a neonatal intensive care nurse in the 1970s in Cleveland and Tennessee. “I know that if a child is ill, things go south really fast. These water-borne illnesses causing diarrhea and vomiting are very serious. The mortality statistics are very high, because it takes very little time for a child to go from slightly dehydrated to a state of shock. If you can’t get safe fluids, you can’t bounce back.”
The show was scheduled for March 4-29, 2018, to coincide with Women’s History Month and World Water Day. Twenty-five members of WCA/NH are participating [including me]. Groenke says, “We’ve had a wonderful response. It takes a village when you’re putting on a show like this. So many people are helping with everything from tags to fixing website problems. Everyone just worked together so well and it all came together with their help. I couldn’t have done this myself.”
In conjunction with the exhibition, Groenke also arranged for a celebration of World Water Day right here in English-speaking New Hampshire with an event at the NHTI Library gallery and speakers Lisa McAllister of The Water Project and Christine Destrempes, an artist who paints about water, at 6 p.m. on March 22, 2018.
Her own work has responded to the force of the water concept, as well. “The piece that I did for the show was conceived back in 2015 when I read about the oil spill in Santa Barbara.” That spill reminded her of the 1969 spill in Santa Barbara when Union Oil Platform A blew out. More than 3 million gallons of oil spewed into the ocean, killing over 10,000 seabirds, dolphins, seals, and sea lions. [More full disclosure: my family was living in Santa Barbara at the time, and I remember people taking seabirds home to wash them.] Activists mobilized to create environmental regulation and education, and established Earth Day (first celebrated in 1970, and now an annual event on April 22) in response to this event.
Groenke started a mixed media piece. “I was experimenting with hydrocal at that time. It’s like plaster of Paris but faster. In 20 minutes it can go from a drippy consistency to like sour cream to like cement that you can spread around with a night. I’d get together with my friend Cilla Sheehan to play with it. One time, I was experimenting by using it on chunks of pine. Four of the five pieces I did that day went into the piece that’s in this show.”
Carole Groenke with her piece "Phoenix at the Beach" (right): Mixed-Media found object wall assemblage collaged with newspaper articles, Citra-Solve altered magazine pages, painted glass and mussel shells, hand-made Italian paper, and acrylic and ink on paper. Foam art block print on plexiglass and sculptured, painted, Hydrocal over wood. Left: Halfway to Heaven, mixed media, by Cilla Sheehan.
On May 19, 2015 an onshore pipeline owned by Plains All American Pipeline ruptured spewing up to 140,000 gallons of crude oil into the Pacific Ocean. ... One image in particular that haunted me was a photo taken of an oil covered bird, (possibly a Cormorant - hard to tell exactly as the bird was entirely encased in black, thick, crude oil). In the photo the bird seems to be trying desperately to take flight but of course, its feathers saturated and matted, to no avail. It remains in the tide pool, splashing among the rocks in the shallow water. This image of the bird, wings outstretched and obviously heavy from its burden, became the inspiration for this piece. The newspaper articles collaged onto the piece are from the Santa Barbara News Press. ... In 1969 this same area was the site of a spill (estimated at 3 million gallons) of crude oil into the Pacific Ocean. That spill prompted the birth of the environmental movement as it is known today. The nation’s first Earth Day was celebrated in 1970.
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I'm Marcia Santore, an artist and a writer. This blog is all about artists and their stories. See my artwork at