The exhibition Silver River is based on the sculptural piece Silver River – Mississippi by architect, artist, and environmental activist Maya Lin and it seeks to present various viewpoints about the Upper Mississippi River by Minnesota-based artists. The artists featured span cultures and centuries, and have been chosen to highlight both the controversy surrounding the Mississippi and it’s importance to The Twin Cities.
Silver is often thought of as a luxurious metal molded into ornate jewelry and other high quality objects. Like a beautifully crafted piece of silver jewelry, the “Great Mississippi” River travels an intricate path through our country. Metaphorically serving as an elaborate silver mirror, the waters of the Mississippi River reflect both the progress and destruction of our civilization.
Many of the greatest cities in history were established on great rivers. Through a replenishing supply of freshwater and natural waterways, rivers like the Tiber and the Nile functioned as the building blocks of communities and economies, creating great cities such as Rome and Cairo, respectively. These rivers functioned as energy, travel passages, trade routes and sewage systems. Over time, the progress of civilization became the destruction, and the rivers suffered, becoming polluted through their overuse.
The Mississippi River is no exception to this process, and the phrase “silver river” is somewhat ironic in describing the waters transformed by industrialization from pure freshwater into a mucky, polluted counterpart. Despite this, it still serves as a silvery beacon of artistic inspiration, and a reflection of our society’s impact on the environment. The artists in this show have not shied away from the problematic state of the river, and instead have used it as a source of artistic inspiration, shining light on the cultural and economical significance of the Mississippi River.
This exhibition is curated by the 2015 – 2016 E. Gerald and Lisa O’Brien Curatorial Fellow, Kate Heller.