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Holoscenes: Water in Art (and in Florida)

My new year’s resolution for 2015 was simple: drink more water. Everyone knows that you should gulp down at least eight glasses a day, right? The fact is that water is essential to your health. It helps control calories, it energizes muscles, it helps those kidneys run, and it’s even good for the brain.

But most importantly it helps keep your skin looking good. That’s right, every celebrity knows the secret, drinking loads of water helps moisturize your skin from the inside out. And as I recently turned…wait I’m not spilling my age…let’s just say I know the importance of keeping my skin nourished. The reality is our bodies are made up of about 60% water.

Ok…so a person can go for more than three weeks without food and about eleven days without sleep before the hallucinations kick in, but we can only last about eight days without precious water. And lest we forget large bodies of water have also been a source of food as well. Yes those fascinating little creatures we call fish can cook up quite the meal. So the solution throughout the existence of humans has been to live as close to this important life source as possible.

Because of humanity’s reliance on water for sustenance and life, it is only logical that it soon took on sacred characteristics. Water has played an important role in basically every religion in existence and has developed quite an extensive mythological history. Throughout the centuries, and continuing today, artists have used water as a source of beauty, inspiration, a representation of the divine, and as an illustration for social and environmental change.Achilles

Remember what Brad Pitt looked like as he took on the role of Achilles and went to war with Eric Bana in the epic movie Troy?

Every girl was disappointed when that fateful arrow hit his heel, but what’s the deal? I mean how is it possible that one arrow right through the foot could take down Greece’s hottest hero. Well it’s all about the water.

Peter Paul Rubens painted a model of the scene showing the moment when Achilles’s mother plunges her infant son into the Underworld’s River Styx hoping to render him immortal. The only problem, she missed a spot, the legendary “Achilles’s heel" as seen in the masterpiece on the right.

Hagar and Ishmael in the WildernessIn the Old Testament, Hagar and her son Ishmael were banished from the house of Abraham. Wandering the desert and dying of thirst, Ishmael cried out and God, hearing his call, produced a well of water.

In the painting" Hagar and Ishmael in the Wilderness," Karel Dujardin paints the moment when Hagar provides her young son with a thirst quenching drink as an Angel foretells of his greatness.

Dujardin depicts the instant when the family has been saved, highlighting an end to their suffering. Water in the desert is a beautiful picture of solace, serenity, and answered prayers.



In the Portrait of Anna Hofsteek, artist Nicolaes Maes paints the young woman with her delicate fingers Portrait of Anna Hofsteekelegantly dipped in a fountain of running water.

Maes, a specialist in portraiture for the aristocracy, highlights her social identity. In this painting, the water has become a symbolic image representing Anna’s innocence and purity.

Conceptual artist Lars Jan has been impacted by the images from the 2005 Hurricane Katrina depicting human life at the mercy of surging waters. In 2012 Lars began research that would lead to the creation of Holoscenes, a public art and performance project that will be presented at The Ringling from March 25-28, 2015. Driven by environmental data and the predictions of climate change and rising waters, Lars has created a powerful work that comments on humanity’s conflicting relationship to water.

For those of us who live in the Bay Area, water is more than something we drink in a glass. We still make pilgrimages to this powerful force. It is where we spend our Saturday Holoscenesmornings on a hot august day.

We plan family trips, friendly weekends, and first dates around it. We get married in front of it, take countless selfies with it lurking in the background, we eat and are merry with its waves crashing soothingly behind us. We attempt to control it, use it, and sometime even abuse it. Yet we often forget about it or take its presence for granted.

What does water mean to you?