The seeds of this exhibit idea were planted back in February of 2014 when Natalie Klein, Judy Wenig -Horswell and I were in Chicago at the WCA national conference. We could see a sliver of Lake Michigan from the window of Natalie’s Chicago apartment, and were inspired by the Water: A Universal Human Right exhibit coordinated by the WCA-Chicago chapter. Several IWCA members began talking about an exhibit that would feature our connection to the Great Lakes and some of the new, and not-so-new threats to the Great Lakes watershed.
Jeanne Fields has kept us well informed with information, articles and links to help us understand the magnitude of issues that threaten this treasured resource. I chose to zero in on the problem of invasive species. As a teenage lifeguard at a camp near Saugatuck, I can remember the huge piles of dead alewives, invaders from the St. Lawrence Seaway, on our beaches. We dug trenches in the sand and buried them every morning, before the flies and stench could drive away swimmers. In later years I have seen evidence of the small, but destructive zebra mussels, brought to Great Lakes waters on the undersides of boats. There are many more. But it was the specter of the Asian Carp that inspired this work.
I learned that basically the only thing that stands between the carp and Lake Michigan is a system of three electric barriers along the Chicago Sanitary and Shipping Canal, built by the Army Corps of Engineers. Troubling questions remain about the effectiveness of the electric barriers to prevent juvenile fish and eggs from moving into the Chicago River and then on to Lake Michigan.
The title of my artwork is Strangers at the Gates. I have represented the barriers, the electricity and the small invaders in textiles. I started with some solar-dyed fabrics, and added more hand-dyed and commercial fabrics as well as a lot of hand stitching. The work is 51” x 38” and is cotton, linen and a little rayon. I experimented with an indigo vat this summer, and have included some of my indigo-dyed fabrics.