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The Soul of a River (Mo Shui)

Marsha McDonald
Year Grant Awarded 2011

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State > WI Zip Code > 53202
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As a series, the paintings, photographs, drawings, and written/ numerical materials in this exhibition represented visually mindful, grounded conversations between landscape and perception.
For this project, I created a meditational, sequential (seasonal) year long portrait of the Milwaukee River as it travels through Milwaukee and empties into Lake Michigan. This river runs through the heart of the urban landscape. Its course embodies the promising changes and continuing environmental challenges of urban rivers in American cities. This portrait of a river was shown at Woodland Pattern in downtown Milwaukee, close to the river. As part of the project exhibition, Woodland Pattern gallery curator/ poet Chuck Stelbelton and I installed " a working wall" of river thoughts in the gallery, offered a community workshop in creating/ building “portraits“ of the river from people (including local people and artists, students from Vietnam, China, Japan, and Saudi Arabia) who live along this waterway. This community portrait was visual and written, and participants chose to take their work home with them. We also invited language/ nature poet Robert Grenier to read at Woodland Pattern, and to interact with local Milwaukeeans. The monies I asked for helped me with art supplies, provided funds for the workshop (including small scholarships for the foreign students, a few who had never attended an art workshop before), and helped Robert Grenier make a stop to read and visit via his talk at Columbia University. Milwaukee Riverkeepers supported the exhibition and its Director, Karen Shapiro, attended the multicultural, multi-generational opening. Documention included postcards and online announcements. While no catalogue was made, I believe the project touched many people, including foreign students living in the city, visiting poets (Pamela Lu used one of the photos for a broadside), and others who came to Woodland Pattern. The river and water continues to inspire my work.