Last summer, Jasmine Amara called me with an idea... What if we created a photography and poetry exhibition about our personal relationship with water while sharing the connecting story of our childhood waterways? What if we could help inspire others to consider their relationship with water? What if we could take a small action to improve our cultural narrative with a source so precious to all life?
This summer, Jasmine and I did just that. We traveled to 3 different regions of California to share About Water, carrying only a trunk full of images, two hearts full of compassion and a few words of poetry.
Our stories were different but connected. Jasmine grew up in the Owen's Valley and I, in Los Angeles County. Jasmine grew up knowing the water story of her home, I did not. The water story from my home was never even a thought or a conversation. I had traveled through Owen's Valley endless times growing up and had no inclination as to what I was staring at through the car window. In 2015, I met Jasmine who was the other photographer for Walking Water, a pilgrimage walking the waterways from the source to end use of Mono Lake to Los Angeles. Feeling deeply inspired to share our personal stories, what we have learned, and our original art and poetry, we agreed that About Water was a project we had to share beyond immediate circles.
The first stop for About Water was in Bishop, California, Jasmine's hometown. I drove 5 hours to meet her at Sierra Shanti, a yoga studio right off highway 395, to start setting up for our first showing. After planning and creating this project remotely from each other for almost a year, this would be the first time all of our hard work would come together visually and metaphorically.
We were greeted by several members and friends of the community. We had the honor of being graced by the words of Jolie Varela, a young Paiute woman working on a cultural revitalization project, and Alan Bacock, the Water Coordinator for the Big Pine Paiute. Thank you to Erin Monahan for a write up of this event in Terra Incognita.
The next morning, we started an 8 hour drive to San Francisco where we would have a showing at The Convent Arts Collective, the space I currently live and work out of. It was important to us to support other artists and hold space for their voice while we were on the journey. We invited in five local poets, Tiffany Lin, Weston McBride, Arthur Cow, Tal Mazal Etedgi, and Edmund Zagorin, to share their about their relationship with water. Another Convent resident, Gabriel Gold, premiered an audio-visual piece co-created in Iceland, giving voice to it's sacred glaciers.
As we continued, we stopped at Rooftop School in San Francisco to share this work with a group of 5-10 year old kids apart of Children's After School Arts summer program. We sat in a circle and shared a discussion about where their water comes from, why that's important, ways we use water indirectly and introduced the concept of having a relationship with water. After the discussion, Jasmine led a painting workshop using earth-based and water friendly materials like turmeric and beet powder.
Moving a bit further north to Santa Rosa, we connected with Ash Weiss and Congle Tron of womb space. We shared our stories and poetry in front of an old Los Angeles map to a beautiful group of new and old friends with poetic support from Gwenivere Wiess. Jasmine led a second natural painting workshop at womb space that was intimate and ended with an incredible acoustic guitar serenade.
As much as this art tour was about sharing our photography and poetry, it was also about engaging and connecting with our audience. We wanted to listen to other peoples stories, backgrounds and share inspiration of how we can personally contribute to shifting our culture away from disconnection and consumption and toward a future of efficiency and harmony with our resources (and each other!).
I can only speak for myself, but I feel that I gained much more than I ever expected from About Water. The challenges and fears were plentiful, the doubts and procrastination were ever present, the joys and teachings were among the most heartwarming moments.
At the beginning of this project, we launched a crowdfunding campaign asking for a hefty amount of money with intentions to do this on a grander scale. We conjoined our asking with efforts to raise funds for our participation on Walking Water and in the end raised less than $1800 for the entire scope of About Water. We soon realized that we needed to scale back our original production to something a bit more resourceful and intimate. With only a little bit of money to take our project around California for a week, we found creative ways to conserve our funds and our usage of water by only purchasing what was absolutely needed. We reused frames from previous projects, borrowed reference books from the Museum of Western Film History and printed our work from local print shops.
Now that the initial launch is completed, we are dreaming of what is next for About Water. We'd like to do another tour like this in the future, connecting to more people and sharing more poetry. We'd like the work to be in a single location for more than a few hours. Maybe we create a book, or another zine. Whatever it is, About Water is not finished here.
A special thank you to all those who contributed to our Indiegogo campaign, who came out or hosted our showings, who supported us during the creation, and all those who have inspired us to act upon what we believe in.
If you'd like to purchase a poetry zine from About Water, want to host a showing, or are wanting to connect, please send me an email.
Gratitude to Namaste Foundation for supporting About Water and featuring this post on their website.