Watered Down continues at Creighton

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October 6th, 2010

By Robyn Wisch

Water is our most precious resource, and we’re throwing it away. That’s according to an author and water expert who spoke at Creighton University Oct. 6 about the global water crisis. Glennon’s talk was part of a month-long exhibition at Creighton’s Lied Art Gallery. Watered Down explores how different people around the world view this life-sustaining resource.

Plastic gas pumps crafted to look like cornhusks emerge in the center of a large installation of circular fields. The fields have clock hands ticking across the green to represent central-pivot irrigation. (Photo courtesy Matthew Dehaemers)

“You have this awkward perspective of looking at the very top surface, you’re looking at the ground level of irrigated fields…” Artist Matt Dehaemers stands next to a large water tower he has crafted from wood and rows and rows of plastic water bottles. “There’s also a bird’s eye perspective,” he said, “you can walk up into the water tower, and get a fuller view looking down at the motorized arms [creating] these circular patterns that represent central pivot irrigated fields.”

In Dehaemers’ exhibit, Watered Down, the Kansas City artist and Creighton graduate has installed a large-scale installation that attempts to contrast how water is taken for granted in some parts of the world and desperately treasured in others.

The sound of dripping water echoes in the gallery every 20 seconds… that’s timed to mark the rate at which a child in the world dies from a water-borne illness.

“When we think about water, we think about it as though it were air, infinite and inexhaustible. But for all practical purposes it’s very finite and very exhaustible,” said Robert Glennon, the author of “Unquenchable: America’s Water Crisis and What To Do About It.”

Glennon said Americans are spoiled in the way they perceive water, and that awareness of the global water crisis is extremely low. It piques occasionally when a region goes through a sustained drought, he said, but that’s always seen as temporary.

“It’s not about drought,” he said. “It’s about there being many more demands on the resource and mostly it’s about population growth. Since the last drought in California of equal severity, the state’s added another seven million people. That’s the elephant in the room when you look at water resources.”

Artist Matthew Dehaemers looks over his installation. This neon commercial-style display is constructed entirely of water bottles filled with colored water. (Photo courtesy Matthew Dehaemers)

Glennon said while we still view water as cheap and plentiful, we’ll continue to overuse it. Ultimately though, as the resource is depleted, he said, the price will go up. And maybe then, how much we value it will change. Watered Down runs through October 15th at Creighton University’s Lied Art Gallery.

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