Friday, December 7, 2012

Considering Water Usage & Ownership: Caryl Morgan

Authors: Heather Eck & Kerry Azzarello
Caryl Morgan, Bottled Water Rain Showerrecycled bottles,
repurposed polycarbonate, metal, 4x6x9', 2012
Fresh water is a natural, finite resource. Bottled water is a manufactured, commercial product. Concept/OK Survey artist Caryl Morgan takes a critical look at both in Bottled Water Rain Shower. This kinetic mobile, constructed from 365 re-purposed water bottles and polycarbonate tubing, requires more than just a passing glance. The translucent materials provide viewers with an unobstructed view. Nevertheless, Newkirk-based artist Morgan hopes the relevant issues of contemporary water usage and ownership are not overlooked. OVAC intern Heather Eck interviewed the artist to learn more.

Q: What inspired Bottled Water Rain Shower?
Morgan: I live in a small town with an agricultural economic base. The drought has impacted the community in a variety of ways. For two years we have received a letter each month on the questionable quality of the city drinking water. This has resulted in the citizens losing confidence in drinking the local water. Another source of inspiration is a painting series that I have been working on for two years based on vintage neon signs. I have been photographing signs throughout the Midwest and without exception I would see discarded water bottles in the area I was photographing. This made me question the need for these bottles as well as the reason we purchase a free resource in bottled form. Reading news reports across the country, it is evident that water is an issue and led to my own divergent thinking. Who owns water? Why should we pay for water that is the very source of our success as a species?
Caryl Morgan prepares to install Bottled Water Rain Shower
at the Hardesty Arts Center
Q: Are environmental issues important to you? Are they prevalent in your work?
Morgan: During the ‘60s, I demonstrated for and against issues, including rallies to prevent the building of the Black Fox Nuclear Plant for electricity. The issue of water became more acute when I first moved to Kay County because the artesian well responsible for watering stock went dry. Now the community is very concerned about the loss of crops and the inability to maintain livestock. During the 2012 presidential campaigns, the Republicans talked a great deal about the Canada Pipe line an important issue saying it would bring more jobs, energy independence and restore the economy. What was not said about this issue was that the pipeline runs the length of the Ogallala Aquifer, the major source of water for the Great Plains and the concern that one environmental oil spill could pollute the aquifer for generations to come.

Q: What was your technical process in creating this installation?
Morgan: I knew what I wanted: kinetic movement and the shimmering effervescence of water. I began cutting off the top and the bottom of the bottles, then by cutting a continuous cut around the body I created long curls. When placed in a group they have a shimmering quality. I then decided to make a mobile to enhance kinetic property. I have made dozens of them over the years because I used the process to introduce student to three-dimensional design and how sculpture functions in space when I was teaching high school. Bottled Water Rain Shower required me to add 3-D pieces to the mobile. I began with twisted wire and then moved to rods with brazed fittings which gave the desired effect and greater capacity for movement.

Q: What do you want viewers to take away from this work?
Morgan: I want people to take away an aesthetic appreciation of the totality of the piece. People that have stopped by the studio while I was constructing it immediately wanted to touch it and see it move, touching the curls in the same fashion one would run your hand under water to feel. I hope people will leave with questions, not sure what it means but answering those questions with their own meanings and answers. Isn’t that the purpose of art?

Based on Bottled Water Rain Shower and in conjunction with Concept/OK, Caryl Morgan is teaching a workshop for 5th-7th grade students on Saturday, January 26 from 1-3 pm at the Hardesty Arts Center in Tulsa. Participants will be made aware of fresh water conservation as well as ways to recycle and repurpose used water bottles. Students will create jewelry, wind chimes, and bird feeders completely from used water bottles.

The Concept/OK: Art in Oklahoma exhibition opens December 16, 1-5 pm at the new Tulsa Arts and Humanities Council’s Hardesty Arts Center. See for more information. 

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