Skip to Content
Artist's Statement

In his Musices poeticae praeceptiones of 1613, Johannes Nucius defined a fugue as “the frequent and definite recurrence of the same theme in various parts which follow each other in spaced entrances.” RIVER FUGUES is a series of individually unique site-specific installations which uses this musical structure as the vehicle for editing and weaving together the disparate visual and audio components to create work which explores the interdependency of people, industry and river waters in post-industrial cities.

RIVER FUGUES began in 2003 by exploring the river and steel mills in Cleveland, Ohio while in residence at SPACES World Artists Program. Lured by fire, water and the imposing presence of the volcanic steel mills at the mouth of the Cuyahoga River my site-specific response to that research became Cuyahoga Fugues, an encounter with generations of stories reflecting the life and dreams embodied by the Cuyahoga. This experience has become the inspiration for creating an expanded body of work exploring the lives of other rivers including the Hudson River, Mississippi River, New River, and the rivers of Buffalo (New York) and Wyoming.

RIVER FUGUES emerges from long-term investigations into the significance of water in our lives. These investigations began with the discovery of W.B. Yeats’ play, At the Hawk’s Well, exploring the longing for immortality from sacred springs. Thirst (1999), Thirst (Elegy for Esther) 2001, and Sitings/Sightings (2002) are subsequent installations in which water turns to steam or just disappears, reiterating this futile search. Cuyahoga Fugues (2003) marked a shift from work exploring the individual’s longing for immortality to that of a society’s collective longing for a “better” life around rivers.

Each river fugue is unique and includes video/film footage of the post-industrial landscape, the river and people in the surrounding community. The harnessing of a river’s water power for development of industry and commerce uncomfortably links a dream of immortality found in the rarified waters of an idealized rural landscape with urban industry and technology along with a subsequent disillusionment in dreams of prosperity as terms are redefined and river waters are compromised.

In Camera Lucida, Roland Barthes spoke of a memorable photograph as having the quality of “punctum”, that is, the ability to pierce. As an artist I strive to create work that pierces, is memorable, and intellectually and visually provocative. Often poignant elegies, these works reflect the complex and changing relationship of a society to its industries and rivers, and strive to be a contributing artistic voice in a larger conversation addressing issues of water.