Many Waters: A Minnesota Biennial is a look into some of the imaginative and dedicated ways that artists and culture bearers from across the state are engaging with water. The exhibition will be on view from July 24 through October 2, 2021 in the M’s window galleries on Robert and 4th streets, in the M’s skyway Ecolab Entrance, and at NewStudio Gallery in St. Paul. Featured creative practices are based in both observation and engagement; some are solitary, while others are collaborative. Many Waters includes multisensory art in a wide range of media.
The exhibition is informed by the M’s proximity to the complex and storied Mississippi River, which goes by many names. A number of featured artists work in close conversation with the watershed, exploring and bringing to greater public consciousness its critical histories. In her video installation, Sisseton-Wahpeton media artist Mona Smith weaves together Dakhóta reflections on the river to foster remembrance, understanding, and acknowledgment of relationship to place.
While some artists are informed by engagement with specific sites, others take a broad, poetic view. Zamara Cuyun’s kaleidoscopic painting Midwife reflects on the relationship between women and water as life givers and sustainers. Karen Goulet’s quilt honors the water journeys of her Ojibwe, Métis, and Sámi/Finnish ancestors, as well as the longing the sky has to see its reflection in the water in the winter months.
A number of artists use found materials drawn from daily walks or other creative rituals. Presley Martin’s sculptural installation, for example, is made up of hundreds of pieces of foam he often first mistakes for natural materials and collects from the banks of the Mississippi. Annie Hejny creates her luminous paintings—suggestive of gateways to watery worlds beyond human reach—with respectfully gathered Mississippi water and sediment.
A theme that runs through the exhibition is a concern for the environmental impact of human activity on bodies of water. A selection of projects from a collective of artists and researchers, spanning the Headwaters to the Gulf of the Mississippi River, explore the ongoing devastations of white settler colonialism, as well as indigenous revival along the river. Additional works by artists from this group will be on view at a companion, artist-organized exhibition, OVERFLOW, at the Q.arma Building.
The work in Many Waters fosters conversation, awareness, a sense of care, as well as new ways of thinking about water and water stories through many different lenses, including ecological, social, political, historical, spiritual, and creative.
The exhibition was juried by a panel that includes Matthew Fluharty, a visual artist, writer, and Executive Director of Art of the Rural; Dakota Hoska, Assistant Curator of Native Arts at the Denver Art Museum; Laura Joseph, Curator of Exhibitions at the M; and Jovan C. Speller, a visual artist, curator, and Program Director at Metro Regional Arts Council.