top of page

Along the Colorado

Along the Colorado is a traveling curatorial that explore the impact of issues around water–its scarcity, use, commodification, conservation, legality, and politics. 

Artists and contributors: Alexander Heilner, Kendra Sollars, Jen Urso, Jess Benjamin, Marc Wise, Michael B Mason, Patrick Kikut, Sean Russell, Cody Perry, John Fleck, Kyle Roerink, and Dr. Thomas Minckley

Curated by: Sapira Cheuk

Along The Colorado at Diana Berger Gallery, Image Credit: Maria Diaz Carrillo

Image Credit: Maria Diaz Carrillo

Explore the exhibition here:

Curatorial Statement:

On August 16, the US Bureau of Reclamation announced the first official shortage declaration for the Colorado River. For the seven US states along the river, this means new restrictions and a changed relationship not only to the river, but also to each other. The exhibition Along the Colorado highlights artwork that explores issues around water; its scarcity, use, commodification, conservation, legality, and other issues through the lens of artists who reside in these states. Curatorial Notes: In 2021, Nevada enacted a ban on decorative and non-functional grass as a result of a federal water shortage declaration on the Colorado River. There’s often an assumption that decorative objects serve no purpose. And art, like this non-functional grass, is thought to be useless; however, that is not the case. Works of art have the power to inspire and resonate, sometimes more than facts. One story that embodies this mutual reinforcement between art and fact is that of John Fleck, Professor of Practice in Water Policy and Governance at the University of New Mexico. John has centered his career around problems of the Colorado River. His interest was inspired by his father, Bob Fleck, an artist who began his career teaching at Mt. San Antonio College. Bob Fleck painted the Grand Canyon and often brought John on painting trips throughout the Colorado River Basin. A similar story began across the state in Nevada, where Cliff Sergerblom, a photographer and painter whose work has been featured in TIME, Life, and National Geographic magazines, also had a profound influence on his son, Tick. Now serving as Clark County Commissioner, Tick Sergerblom grew up surrounded by photographs of the Hoover Dam and paintings of Lake Mead, which shaped his career and passion for sustainability and the water future of Nevada. Art often has the power to direct our attention to important features of our world. Dr. Thomas Minkley and artist Patrick Kikut understood this deeply when they organized the Sesquicentennial Colorado River Exploring Expedition in 2019. The expedition team spent three months rafting down the Colorado River. While the scientific team captured data at different points on the river, the artists captured a visual narrative of the river. In this exhibition, viewers can discover the colors of waters documented by Minkley next to the watercolors produced by Kikut. Viewed together, they produce a comprehensive story of the river, documented at this moment in time. The image of the Colorado River is stark in Alexander Heilner’s aerial photography and video. The “bathtub rings” of Lake Powell and Lake Mead creates a searing image of the current water conditions. Viewed next to Heilner’s work, Make Mead, by Sean Russell, reminds the viewer that most people’s experience of the river is mediated, whether through an airplane window or a digital screen. Russell’s work asks the viewer to connect the turn of their tap to the source of that flow. Artist Michael B Mason’s series of paintings titled Powell's Prophecy reflects on what John Wesley Powell, director of U.S. Geological Survey (1881-1894), advised to the US Congress, advice which was then ignored.. Powell cautioned that the West could not sustain large-scale agriculture due to its dry climate and that development should be based on conservation and low-density growth. Jess Benjamin’s work also echoes histories made without consideration for conservation. When the Hoover Dam intake towers were designed, engineers intended for only the tops of the towers to be visible, since there was a belief that the water would be plentiful;; therefore, more attention was paid to the aesthetic design for that part of the structure. As the river progresses deeper into the drought, more of the tower is exposed. Benjamin’s ceramic works Crowning Achievement separates the crown from the rest of the tower, speaking to the failure to imagine a less abundant, drought-filled future. Jen Urso and Marc Wise’s works examine the man-made pathways of water. Urso, with the assistance of Pueblo Grande Museum and archaeologists, created layered 3D maps of the canals, irrigations, and waterways of Arizona’s past and present. The work begins with the canals of the Hohokam, ancestral people of the Sonoran Desert, and continues to current irrigation maps, connecting generations through water. On a practical note, the blue reflectors in Wise’s photographs and installations are used to indicate roadside fire hydrants. These reflectors are critical to fire fighters in emergencies; in this body of work, however, the placement of these reflectors also serves to remap the water’s course, bringing water to where it’s most needed.

bottom of page