Under Water

Under Water    January 21-April 8, 2023

Under Water explores the rich undercurrents in the water around us, through work in a wide range of media by a diverse collection of artists. The exhibition addresses diverse topics around water—what is in our water, how much we consume, how climate change has impacted water, how humans have sought to control water sources and to what effect, and the symbolic role of water in moving people literally and metaphorically.

The artists in Under Water explore a range of concerns lurking under the surface, bringing them to light. In this exhibition, we will find an exploration of the significance of water as a medium for migration and the role of water in environmental justice. Some artists use research, mapping and measuring data to share perspectives on water use, facts, and effects. Works in the exhibition help us experience the impact of sea level rise and realize the environmental benefits of marshlands. Other artists creatively address water pollution, plastic waste, and the impact of climate change on ocean temperatures and ecosystems.

Artists in the exhibition include: Kim Anno, Barbara Boissevain, Sukey Bryan, Judith Content, Jeffrey Downing, Ana Teresa Fernández, Linda Gass, Tanja Geis, Liz Hickok, Kenyatta A.C. Hinkle, Hughen/Starkweather, Judith Selby Lang and Richard Lang, Trinh Mai, Danae Mattes, John Sabraw, Adrien Segal, Joan Takayama-Ogawa.

Under Water is a component of Climate Connections, a year-long series highlighting the power of art to promote reflection, dialogue and action on climate change. Climate Change—Protection and Adaptation is one of the City of Palo Alto Council Priorities for 2022. It reflects the City’s ongoing commitment to sustainability, outlined in its Sustainability and Climate Action Plan (S/CAP). Updated in early 2020, the plan develops the strategies needed to meet our goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2030 and other community-wide sustainability goals.

image of sea urchin

Tanja Geis, Purple Sea Urchin, 2023, charcoal on paper, 46 x 35 1/2 in., Courtesy of the artist


In conjunction with Under Water, the Palo Alto Art Center will provide the following free public programs:

One-Day Sculpture Installation by Ceramic Artist Jeffrey Downing—Saturday, Jan. 21, 2023

Bay Area artist Jeffrey Downing will create a temporary, site-specific performance near the Lucy Evans Baylands Nature Interpretive Center to engage the community around the topic of sea-level rise. Downing will install his black-and-white ceramic columns, enhanced with nautical symbols at the top, in the Baylands, to coincide with the King Tides. The columns will be placed in the bay mud at the edge of the levee in front of the Nature Center and adjacent to the Eco Center between 10:30 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. Over the course of the rising tides, the works will seemingly submerge further into the water, only to be removed when low tide returns. Downing has previously created similar site-specific, short-term installations in Richardson Bay in Sausalito (pictured above) as part of a residency at MarinMOCA in Novato. His work provides a creative reinforcement of scientific data about sea level rise, capturing people’s attention through a different medium. “King Tides show what tides are going to look like with sea level rise, and everybody’s learning now that sea level rise is progressing because the earth is getting warmer and the ice caps are melting,” he says.

Over the course of the day-long Baylands installation, the Art Center and artist hope to engage intentional visitors and also attract Baylands recreational users. During the installation, the artist will be available to talk to viewers about his work and process.

The sites of the installation have been identified to minimize any impact to plants or wildlife habitat at the Baylands. Special care will be taken to minimize the artist’s movement in areas outside pedestrian pathways to reduce any lasting impact to the environment. 

Photo and video documentation of the project can be found on our flickr site at the link here.

Friday Night at the Art Center opening reception—Friday, Jan. 27, 6-8 p.m., FREE

Join us at the Art Center for a special celebration of “Under Water.” This event will feature hands-on art activities, a chance to meet the exhibiting artists, music by The Friendly Island and a specialty cocktail and cash bar provided by the Palo Alto Art Center Foundation. Palo Alto Art Center Foundation members are invited to a special preview at 5 p.m. 

Under Water Virtual Artist Talks

Hear from artists in the Under Water exhibition about their work and processes in these virtual conversations.

John Sabraw and Liz Hickok—Friday, Feb. 24, 5 p.m., FREE

Join us for a virtual presentation featuring Ohio-based artist John Sabraw and San Francisco-based artist Liz Hickok. Both artists create artworks addressing water pollution, employing innovative techniques in the process.

A recording of the talk is available here. 

A Conversation with Artist Kenyatta A.C. Hinkle and Art Historian Bridget R. Cooks, Ph.D.—Friday, March 17, 5 p.m., FREE

Hear from interdisciplinary visual artist, writer, performer, and healer Kenyatta A.C. Hinkle in conversation with art historian and curator Bridget R. Cooks, Ph.D. around THEY: A Temple of Black Possibility on view in Under Water.

A recording of the talk is available here.