Women and Water: Sisters in Evolution

The exhibition of Women and Water: Sister in Evolution is on display at the Seacoast Science Center through September 2016.

Christine Destrempes | Director, Art and Dialogue

AIR blog 1There is so much to learn from nature and each other. That’s what we did for two action-packed weeks with sixteen young women in our collaborative art and science project between Arts in Reach, Seacoast Science Center, and Art and Dialogue. Using ocean metaphor to explore the fluidity of identity, societal pressures, and living with intention, AIR’s teens dove deeply into self-reflection through the process of creating three-dimensional, mixed media pieces of art. Their focus, commitment, kindness, and mutual support are a testament to their capacity for success. They wowed me and they will wow you too when you see their installation at Seacoast Science Center.

As a sixty-four year old artist; graphic designer; wife; mother; grandmother; former waitress, hippie, single-parent, publishing executive, business owner; and current director of Art and Dialogue, there’s so much I want to say to young women. But as most elders know, our sagacity and experience are not always hot items. I accept this much-deserved payback.  So, what’s the best way for reaching without preaching? Art with interconnections . . . specifically science and dialogue. With so many challenges facing young women today, integrating science and art opens up possibilities for engagement exponentially.

There are probably as many ocean metaphors as wet, salty pieces of plastic trash swirling into gyres.  And we plumbed many throughout our ten days together. Examining who we are through the natural world simultaneously disarms self-consciousness and expands perspective. Suddenly it’s not interpersonal, it’s intrapersonal. It becomes apparent that we are all in the same boat; that we’re all downstream; that we’re all pulled by the tides of societal pressures; that because we’re made mostly of water, our identities are never solid; that sometimes an abrasive experience can result in a pearl of wisdom; that we are interconnected to each other and the natural world.

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Spending a whole day at Seacoast Science Center, learning, observing, sketching in journals they made, and exploring, enriched the teens, animating metaphor through experience. Naturalist, Nikki Annelli’s presentations were the scientific foundation for all of our subsequent conversations and reflections on turning to the natural world for inspiration, understanding, and self-discovery.

AIR Program Director, Becca Romanoski and her team, Lauren Garza and Chelsea Haskell, set the tone for acceptance, cooperation, kindness, and respect. They provided just enough structure for the discipline required to produce a significant piece of art while building a safe, nurturing environment where creativity could be unleashed.

Art and Dialogue’s duo, Christine Destrempes and Sam Kelly, created the program concept, the format and techniques for making the art, as well as introducing drawing and writing exercises that are common practice for professional artists. Using image transfer techniques, the teens designed three panels on translucent fabric and paper, which inform and interact with each other. Adding beads, shells, pearls, and stitching, the teens constructed a snapshot in time of identity and transformation. The panels are not fixed–they move in response to the breeze.

The Vietnamese Buddhist monk, Thich Nhat Hanh teaches that if we look at life as the ocean, we each are a wave. We rise, crest, roar to the shore, then slip back to join all the other waves that have been or are about to be. For a brief moment in time we are distinct, but we are never separate.

Our project worked because the teens were able to express their uniqueness within the loving kindness of interconnection. They championed each other’s efforts, jumping in to help one another both with technique and moral support. They made sure that no one felt left out; practiced active listening; offered to speak up for the shy; and focused intensely on making art. They felt connected to and supported by the group while valued and respected as individuals. Distinct, but never separate, just like art, science, and life.

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