“TOO SHALLOW FOR DIVING: the weight of water”

an art exhibition at the Weston Art Gallery in Cincinnati, Ohio
curated by Christopher Hoeting and Carolyn Speranza

The Too Shallow for Diving exhibition series began with a survey show subtitled “The 21st Century is Treading Water” at the American Jewish Museum in Pittsburgh. Too Shallow for Diving began with my love for the beauty and aesthetics of water as well as an urgency to appreciate the role water plays in our era of global warming. I am struck by the seriousness with which we must regard water—regionally, nationally and globally, if we are to continue life as we know it on the “blue planet.” These words may surprise some readers who, like many of us, have taken the availability of clean air and water for granted.

Too Shallow for Diving brings the age-old conflict between man and nature to contemporary art through an examination of our relationship with water. With a mix of poetry, humor, politics, and environmental discourse, the artists bring our attention to the weight that water bears not only on our everyday concerns but also to the future of our planet. The Ohio River Basin plays a lead role in this exhibition, connecting to waterways both north and as far south as the Gulf of Mexico.

Each of the artists in the exhibition has extensive experience working with environmental subject matter and, as a group, has been selected as a snapshot of a blossoming community of activists who work to bring global issues closer to home. The exhibition seeks to shine a light on our region’s water as we sit on top of the largest freshwater reserve on the globe. Thus, we bear a great responsibility to sustain the future of our planet.

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Since the advent of the industrial age, human impact on the environment and depletion of the earth’s resources have never been more apparent than during the past decade. It’s only in the 21st century that the effects of global warming have become undeniable and are now part of public discourse. While volumes have been said about fossil fuel shortages, until very recently, issues about water have been rarely mentioned; water is one of those resources that we take for granted. In addition to pollution, loss of aquatic species, and the demise of coral reefs, there are even bigger problems on the horizon.

Too Shallow for Diving is both profoundly personal and global in its implications. It was from my father that I learned about the weight of water. Quite literally, and with the mind of a physicist, he taught me to observe the curve in each wave as I learned the safest angle from which to dive into the roughest part of the ocean. At the same time and at the same place, Assateague Island, my mother shared the sanctity she found in water. While she read book after book, she listened to the rhyme of the waves and watched the small birds and tiny crabs do their dance of existence at the edge of the surf. Many years later, I read a passage of Rachel Carson’s that brought these birds, the sanderlings, to life for listeners at my mother’s funeral. Both Paul D. and Ada P. Speranza died just over a year ago. I dedicate this exhibition to them.

Paul D. and Ada P. Speranza, circa 1960

Paul D. and Ada P. Speranza, circa 1960

Carolyn Speranza
April 2015

Press for the exhibition:
The Weight of Water in Dayton City Paper
Numediacy, McCombs in River City News

Interview with co-curator, Chris Hoeting
2Shallow4Diving_WOW_press release

Exhibition Checklist: 2Shallow4DivingWow_checklist

Weston Gallery’s Online Archive for this exhibition: http://www.cincinnatiarts.org/weston-art-gallery/exhibitions/detail/too-shallow-for-diving-the-weight-of-water

Down the River: Muhammad Ali threw his Olympic Gold Medal into the Ohio

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Sketch for art installation at Weston Gallery

For several years now I have been angry with myself and with my fellow humans. We don’t have what it takes to address the critical issues we face with each other and with the species with whom we share a planet.

Charles Perrow is a Research Scholar and Emeritus Professor of Sociology at Yale and a Visiting Professor at Stanford. At his May 2012 presentation at Carnegie Mellon, I asked him point blank, “Of all the animals on the Earth, why are we the only ones who jeopardize the survival of every living creature?” He responded to me, “The human brain is wired for short-term survival. Our only hope lies with a long-term institutional mission, and it’s capacity to expand our vision, one that encompasses how we humans impact the quality of our air and water.”

The U.S. Coast Guard has a reporting system for chemical, solid waste, and oil spills called the National Response Center—a 911-call center for our waterways. Looking at the Center’s reports, there are enough incidents in a year to fill any map, and these are just the ones that get reported. Even with the Clean Water Act in place since 1972, we continue to dirty our water. If we look back another hundred years or so, our waterways, and in particular, the Ohio and Mississippi rivers, were sullied by pollution of another kind: human trafficking. To this day, “sold down the river,” implies forcible separation from family, certain hardship, and even death. Water is indeed a vehicle for slavery while the converse, “up the river,” translates into being shipped off to prison.

On my first visit to the Weston Gallery I saw the public library’s “Cincinnati Panorama of 1848.” An interactive map provides a guide to the edge-to-edge illuminated photographs of the Ohio riverfront. Pressing a button reminded me that in 1848, the river separated not just geographic states, but the states of being a slave and of a free man. Having read “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” aloud with my family as a kid, I stood there thinking of Huck saying, “We would sell the raft and get on a steamboat and go way up the Ohio amongst the free States, and then be out of trouble.”

During my childhood, Mohammed Ali was the subject of many impassioned conversations in my suburban New Jersey home, as my father greatly admired his integrity and the guts it took for him to object to being drafted into the Vietnam War. Furthermore, one of Ali’s urban legends caught my attention. Shortly after returning home to Louisville, Kentucky with a 1960 Olympic Gold Medal, despite parades and fanfare, Ali was refused service at a local drugstore counter. A white motorcycle gang chased him and a friend out of the store and onto the road. The story concludes with Ali throwing his beloved medal into the Ohio River in disgust. It just so happens that 1960 was also the year my parents married. My Italian father from Brooklyn barely “passed” for white with his father-in-law who was from Georgia. Nothing about race was clear, except that Ali and Huck Finn’s voices started to shape my worldview. That was very clear.

Today I study databases and the news as much, if not more, than paintings in museums.  A glance at Google Maps tells me that Ferguson, MO is not far from the Mississippi. I have the tools to map out toxic dumping on riverfronts—and to illustrate how the senseless deaths of young black men geographically and historically connect with the United State’s slave trade.

This is not a graceful narrative; it’s a combination of things, 1-2-3, which are happening in my world at this time. This is my America.

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“Too Shallow for Diving” Sister Exhibition, “Artists’ Books on the Environment” Closing Reception Tuesday June 28 at Carnegie Mellon

Artists’ Books on the Environment Closing Reception
Join us on Tuesday, June 28 from 5-7 p.m. at Carnegie Mellon University, Arts Library and Special Collections, on the 4th floor of Hunt Library for a closing reception of the exhibition “Artists’ Books on the Environment.” This exhibition is currently being held in conjunction with “Too Shallow for Diving: the 21st Century is Treading Water” at the American Jewish Museum in Pittsburgh and includes books by artists in the AJM show. It features eighty works from miniature books to sculptural installations exploring every aspect of the human condition as influenced by our “natural” environment. Collectively the exhibition points to our ultimate remembering that human beings are inextricable forces within the ecological dynamic of our planet Earth and beyond.

The artists’ books exhibition continues through July 1. Works in the exhibition cases can be viewed anytime during library hours and in the Fine and Rare Book Room by appointment from Monday through Friday. For more information contact Mo Dawley, Art and Drama Librarian, 412-268-6625.

“Too Shallow for Diving: the 21st Century is Treading Water” with associated events continues at the Jewish Community Center through July 28 http://www.jccpgh.org/page/ajm

 

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Local Water Issues and Public Health Presentation at the JCC Monday June 6 at 7:00pm

WATER’S WAYS: A Presentation & Discussion of Local Water Issues and Public Health
When: Monday, June 6, 7:00pm
Where: Jewish Community Center, 5748 Forbes Ave, Pittsburgh 15217 (Squirrel Hill near Murray Ave)
Contact: Ann Rosenthal, Dargan Street Studios, 412-688-0417, atrart
Web Site: http://www.jccpgh.org/page/ajmIn conjunction with the exhibition Too Shallow for Diving: the 21st Century is Treading Water, participating artists Ann Rosenthal and Steffi Domike have organized a discussion of local water issues and public health with environmental and academic leaders:

Dr. Patty DeMarco, Director of the Rachel Carson Institute, Chatham University will discuss water issues and choices for the 21st Century. Dr. Charles Christen, Director of Operations for the Center for Healthy Environments & Communities (CHEC) at University of Pittsburgh’s Graduate School of Public Health will address the public health implications of water and Marcellus Shale development. Dr. Christen worked closely with Dr. Conrad “Dan” Volz who recently resigned as Director of CHEC.

This event is free and open to the public. Those attending will have the opportunity to ask questions of the speakers and artists, and will be able to view the exhibition.

The exhibition Too Shallow for Diving: the 21st Century is Treading Water, guest curated by artist and educator Carolyn Speranza explores the environment, especially those issues surrounding water and its impact on our planet, human health and public welfare.

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Too Shallow for Diving: the 21st Century is Treading Water opens May 14 at 7:00PM

May 14th at 7:00pm Too Shallow for Diving: the 21st Century is Treading Water opens to the public at the American Jewish Museum at the Jewish Community Center in Squirrel Hill. I will be speaking at 7:30 to introduce the project and to talk with you about creating new communities; the role of the artist; and issues on water and the environment. Please join me for an evening of engagement and celebration until 9:00 pm.

Throughout the course of the exhibition, environmental organizations will host citizen action workshops at the JCC, including Clean Water Action, Penn Environment and Penn Future. Green Drinks, a networking event for people working to make Pittsburgh greener in the areas of business, policy, new technologies and activism will be hosted by the AJM. Former professor Conrad “Dan” Volz, Jr., who recently resigned from his position at the University of Pittsburgh this April over his public health advocacy on water and natural gas drilling will give a presentation. Too Shallow for Diving artists will host workshops throughout the course of the exhibition which concludes July 28. All events are free and open to the public.

Too Shallow for Diving: the 21st Century is Treading Water has received funding from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Jewish Healthcare Foundation, The Buhl Foundation and The Sprout Fund. All of the exhibition’s artists have received honorariums to support the creation of new and provocative work.

TOO SHALLOW FOR DIVING: THE 21ST CENTURY IS TREADING WATER
AMERICAN JEWISH MUSEUM OF THE JEWISH COMMUNITY CENTER OF GREATER PITTSBURGH MAY 16 – JULY 28, 2011
OPENING SATURDAY, MAY 14TH, 7 – 9 P.M.
CURATOR’S TALK: CAROLYN SPERANZA at 7:30 P.M.
PERFORMANCE: VANESSA GERMAN at 8:00 P.M.

THE ARTISTS:
Tim Collins and Reiko Goto
Jim Denney
Vanessa German
Prudence Gill
Jamie Gruzska
Richard Harned
Roger Laib
Lisa Link
Maritza Mosquera
Wendy Osher
Ann T. Rosenthal and Steffi Domike
Carolyn Speranza and Frank Ferraro
David Stairs

Additional information can be found at: http://www.jccpgh.org/page/ajm

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