Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Art for Water at Franklin Pierce University

The students at Franklin Pierce completed their installation to raise awareness about water use habits on campus and in the community and we installed it last Monday in Pierce Hall. They drilled holes in hundreds of water bottles and strung them together with wire to make a river of bottles. We strung 5 fishing lines across the 36´ wide room and hung some of the bottles over the fishing lines. Then we hung the rest from the top of the wall so that they flowed down the wall and swirled into the room. Last Thursday evening there was a celebration of water by many departments on campus. Wendy Dwyer, head of the dance department, choreographed a dance about water with 5 dancers. Lou Bunk, head of the music department, and three of his students created original music with water sounds. Creative writing student, Renee Beauregard, rewrote a fable about water called Dream Angus and 16 graphic arts students displayed illustrations for it. 8 of Heather Tullio's communications students made short videos about water and students conducted water tasting tests during the reception. Attendance exceeded our expectations causing students to sit on the dance floor, shrinking the dancers' space. But everyone was thrilled at the turnout and now just about everyone on the Franklin Pierce University campus is thinking about water and they're thinking twice about buying bottled water.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Art for Water at University

Joni Doherty, Director of the New England Center for Civic Life at Franklin Pierce University in Rindge, NH, saw 13,699 at the Sharon Arts Exhibition Gallery and invited me to be the Artist-in-Residence for the fall semester where I am facilitating an art installation designed and produced by students. We have a core group of about 12, but I think more will join us as the piece starts to take shape. After a concept meeting and brainstorming session, the students decided that they wanted to call attention to water use habits on campus, so they started collecting empty water bottles to use as their medium. How their peers relate to water on a personal level is also an important element, so they are taking a poll on feelings about water and converting the answers to messages that will be placed in some of the bottles. The bottles are being strung together with wire to create long chains which then will be used in a variety of configurations. Many departments on campus are getting involved. Wendy Dwyer, head of the dance department, is choreographing a dance about water to be performed by students within the installation. The dancers will be challenged by not knowing what their set will look like until the very last minute. Art videos are being created, sound about water is being composed to which the dancers will perform, poetry is being written, various speakers––from curators to scientists––are scheduled,photographs are being taken, and a documentary about this project is being made by a student. The big night is November 12, so we have a lot of work to do in not a lot of time. However, enthusiasm is running high, so I know they will create a spectacular piece of art for social change.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Art for Water

WATER: Mystery & Plight exhibition is over and the installation is packed up and stored at it's next venue, the Thorne-Sagendorph Art Gallery at Keene State College in Keene, NH. The response to 13,699 at the Sharon Arts Exhibition Gallery was so positive and heartfelt. Lots of people emailed or sent me notes expressing their appreciation and the sign-in book was filled with supportive comments. My intention to raise awareness of global water issues through art was fulfilled and I am even more energized to continue this work. During the exhibition there was a film night at the local theater sponsored by the Harris Center for Environmental Education. People watched "The Water Front" which is about access issues faced by the poor in Highland Park, Michigan and the threat of privatization as a solution to fiscal crises. Afterwards there was a reception at the Art Gallery where guests were thrilled to receive an Innate Gear stainless steel water bottle. Later in the month there was a presentation by Water Quality Manager, Robert Wood, who had volunteered for Water for People in Guatemala. His slides of the Guatemalans' challenges in providing clean water for their families were moving. Robert also gave us all a lesson in the water challenges we face here in NH with storm water run-off, pharmaceutical pollution, algae blooms, bacteria, and development. Attendees received Innate Gear's awesome stainless steel water bottles.

I'm currently working on concepts for my next Art for Water installation, looking for venues for 13,699 for 2010 and 2011, and talking to a local university about working with students on an Art for Water installation this fall.

Here's one of the comments I received:

"I snuck in on Thursday afternoon before the opening and was completely blown away by beauty, the stature, the delicacy, the brilliance of your piece. But, I said to myself, "How can this beautiful piece represent the global water crisis? It's too beautiful, too delicate, too ethereal to transmit the tragedy, the desperation of those who are suffering in the midst of this crisis." Then, I thought of the many people dying and the souls those people represent and, all of a sudden, the delicacy, the ethereal quality, the beauty hit me: with the light shining on the piece the way it does, all those souls were shimmering, twinkling, sparkling like diamonds before my eyes, as if those who have died are still among us. It blew me away.

It is a transfigurative work of art, Christine. It is sensational, in the best sense of the word. It is beautiful and moving. It communicates the essence of the crisis loud and clear. It should travel far and wide.

Thank you for your creativity, courage and determination to mount such a show, and congratulations on a masterpiece."

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

WATER: Mystery & Plight

The opening reception on Friday night for WATER: Mystery & Plight at the Sharon Arts Exhibition Gallery far exceeded my wildest dreams of a perfect opening. The place was packed and it seemed like everyone was moved by 13,699 as well as Mary Lang's serene and mysterious photographs ( The responses to my piece were heartwarming and insightful, pointing to an aspect that I hadn't considered such as using "S" hooks to hang the strings mirrors the tenuous environmental balance that victims of the water crisis are facing. Many commented how thrilled they were to be allowed to enter the installation and get close and be able to touch it.

At the opening, the volunteers who worked on making the installation, breaking it down, packing it up, and setting it back up again, as well as two of Sharon Arts' staff who put in extra effort to make the exhibit a success, were given Innate Gear's very cool stainless steel water bottles as a token of my appreciation. Thanks, again, to Innate Gear for donating such a great product to my cause.

Check out to learn about a photo contest––Hydrate with Innate––where the prize is a $1000. donation to a charitable organization that provides access to safe drinking water! The winner also gets a case of Innate's very cool stainless steel water bottles. You can post photos and stories about hydration on their site and enter this worthy contest. Pass the word to all thirsty shutter bugs.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Show Time

The opening at the Sharon Arts Center Exhibition Gallery is three days from today and thanks to lots of effort from many volunteers, 13,699 is complete and installed! I finished the piece on June 17, uncorked a bottle of Champagne and shared it with some friends, and then on my birthday, the 20th, started to take it all down. It took about 24 work hours over three days to disassemble the lines of bottle caps as each one had to be wrapped around cardboard. The frame and grid were moved and installed on Thursday, the 25th, and on Friday we started to unwrap lines and rehang them in the gallery. We finished yesterday with the fun part of adjusting each bottle cap on its line, and setting the lighting. The gallery space does wonders for 13,699 with a beautiful blue gray wall behind it for contrast and dramatic lighting casting shadows on the floor and the wall. After working on this project for such a long time, it feels unreal for it to be complete and installed.

Innate Gear has made a generous gift of stainless steel water bottles to this project. They will be awarded as prizes at two events that are scheduled during the exhibition. The Harris Center for Conservation Education is sponsoring a film, The Water Front, and discussion night on July 14th and Robert Wood, Water Quality Manager, will make a presentation on July 25th on his work in Guatemala with Water for People. Many thanks to Innate Gear for supporting me in my effort to raise awareness about water conservation.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Exhibition Countdown

The exhibition, WATER: Mystery & Plight, opens at the Sharon Arts Center Exhibition Gallery ( on July 3. 13,699 will be installed and photographs of surfaces of water by Mary Lang will be displayed. Mary's photographs are abstract, contemplative color fields where scale is uncertain. Check them out at I'm co-curating this exhibit with Susan Callihan ( and we've been busy taking care of all of the details of putting an exhibition together. The exhibition postcard is printed and at the mail house and the press releases are about to be sent out. Meanwhile, I've been trying to finish 13,699 and it's almost there! I need about 100 more lines to fill in some sparse areas and fortunately friends are showing up to help out with the final push. Once it's complete, however, it all has to come down string by string so that it can be moved to Peterborough. Colleen Clark, video artist, volunteered to film me talking briefly about the installation. Check it out on There was another String-A-Thon at Harlow's Pub, which was successful. On May 16 I participated in Children in the Arts Festival in Peterborough, NH by setting up at the Sharon Arts Center Gallery for drilling and stringing. There was a steady stream of children and adults who helped out. The Starving Artist in Keene, NH invited me to do a presentation and have a stringing session in May. After working on 13,699 for such a long time, I'm very excited about displaying it in public. The opening is July 3rd from 5:00 to 7:00 and the exhibition will be up through August 2nd.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Busy Times & Good News

The past six weeks have been a blur of activity. I made a presentation to 7th graders at the Salem Academy Charter School in Salem, MA. This group was considerably younger than all of the others that I've worked with, but they hung in there. The first String-A-Thon at our local pub, Harlow's, was a huge success and will be repeated on Tuesday, May 12. Eleven people showed up to string bottle caps and drink beer. They managed to string 114 lines! Two weeks ago I did two presentations at New England College in Henniker, NH and the Art Club kept all of my equipment for the week so that they could drill bottle caps and string them. Their efforts culminated at NEC's Earth Day Festival. St. Paul's School had an Earth Day Festival as well and thanks to inclement weather, more students showed up to my presentation and managed to string almost 200 lines. I made a presentation about raising water awareness in NH schools at a Department of Environmental Services' Drinking Water Source Protection Workshop last Friday. I was given a display table where I had a bowl of bottle caps and many participants stopped to ask what they were all about. It was fun to talk to water professionals and environmentalists about the project, which certainly was unique at this extremely technical workshop. My friend, Randi, came up from Boston for the weekend to help me hang all of the strings that had been piling up. We made a major dent in the pile and as a result, the installation is coming together beautifully. Yesterday I received a grant award from the Anne Slade Frey Charitable Trust of Hanover, NH, for which I am very grateful.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Art for Water: Walk for Water in Portland, Maine

Sunday was World Water Day and and in Portland, Maine SOH20, Food and Water Watch, Maine Water Allies, and Take Back the Tap organized a Walk for Water followed by a celebration at the North Star Cafe. The weather was warm and sunny one minute and freezing, snowy, and windy the next, but there was quite a crowd gathered to walk 4 miles, which represents a common distance that people have to walk in order to get water for their homes and families. There were huge puppets, The Leftist Marching Band of Portsmouth, NH, dogs, children, and citizens of all ages concerned about global water issues and water privatization issues close to home. After the walk, everyone congregated at the North Star Cafe on Congress Street to hear from the sponsors, The Leftist Marching Band, poets, and yours truly giving a presentation about my installation project. It was pretty exciting to spend the better part of the day with so many people who are active in trying to protect water resources in Maine.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Art for Water: World Water Day

Amy Dowley, the Maine Organizer for Food & Water Watch, has invited me to attend a World Water Day celebration in Portland on Sunday and to give a presentation about 13,699. This is a much appreciated invitation after trying to make something happen in Concord, NH for World Water Day and not succeeding. I had hoped, back in September, to set up the installation, actually unveil it (in process), in front of the State House. After the piece started to come together, however, I realized that this was unrealistic unless I could rent a tent for a whole week, which I could not afford to do. Plan B was to set up a small table and a very scaled down version in the Visitor Center inside the State House, but the powers that be did not think that this was a good idea. Plan C was to acquire the use of an empty storefront on Main Street for a week and set up the installation in process, but the owner would not agree to it. So, I was feeling kind of all dressed up with no place to go when Amy's invitation appeared. There'll be a Walk for Water, which starts behind the Hannaford parking lot, followed by a gathering at the North Star Cafe on Congress Street.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Art for Water: At the Mill

Have just spent three days at the Cheshire Mill studio space where 13,699 is being constructed, rehanging lines of bottle caps. Originally, I had hoped that the bottle caps on monofilament could be hung on a metal grid that would suspend from the ceiling. However, the exhibition venue for the fall required a free-standing frame. I had gotten an estimate from a metal fabricator to make the frame of my dreams, (sleek, anodized white . . .) but the price was way out of my range at $3000. So, galvanized steel pipe with fence fittings at the corners that I bought from FarmTek (a very cool catalog) will have to do. This is my first three-dimensional project, so thinking in volume and depth is more challenging than I had imagined. The frame that I ordered was ten feet high and ten feet square and I intended to put a twelve by twelve foot grid on the top. Once that was erected, however, I realized the scale was way off and it was just too big. So, with the help of some friends who happen to be sculptors, Kim and Scott Cunningham, my husband and I took the frame apart and Scott and Noel cut down the pipes with a chop saw and then we put the frame all together again. Jeremy from Bevara suggested grid wall, which is typically used in retail shops, for the top grid and I found some at two by five foot rectangles. Noel and I assembled them and secured them with hose clamps. The grids hang over the frame by about one foot all the way around.

Last August Noel and I had suspended some metal shelving from the ceiling with chains, so there were about 250 lines hanging that had to be taken down when I got the steel frame. Each line had to be wrapped around a scrap of foam core or hung from poles on the studio walls. I had been collecting more strung lines from my work with students. Over the past three days I hung or rehung about 350 lines, trying to figure out how to space them. Currently there are more than 7,000 bottle caps hanging and only about 25% of the grid is filled. My math skills are proving to be less impressive than I feared because according to my earlier calculations, 7,000 bottle caps should have taken up about 50% of the space. Fearing a shortage yesterday I counted how many caps I have waiting to be drilled and strung and I think I have plenty to complete the project. Although, the installation title refers to how many people die every day from lack of access to clean water, the actual number of bottle caps in the installation will exceed 13,699.

With painting and print making I'm accustomed to a more experimental approach. At the outset of a new body of work, I have an idea of what I want to make, and then work towards that general direction. Along the way there are always happy accidents, especially in print making, and the work evolves as a result. With this installation project I've had to try to think it all the way through on paper and even though I sought out the advice of architect friend, Rick Monahon, the way it looks and they way I thought it would look are different. This was especially shocking with the original ten foot frame. There has been a happy accident, however, and that is that the bottle caps look like a heavy rain falling or the bubbles from a scuba tank or in a water cooler. In spite of being plastic trash, they are beautiful.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Art for Water

13,699 will be exhibited at the Sharon Arts Center ( in Peterborough, NH from July 3 through August 2 along with photographs by Mary Lang ( Yesterday I approached some businesses and organizations in the town to talk about the possibility of creating a concerted effort to raise awareness of the world water crisis during the month the installation is being exhibited. The response was positive. I intend to talk to more people in the town and hope that if you come to Peterborough in the month of July, you won't be able to turn around without bumbing into some reminder that water is precious.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Art for Water

Good news. 13,699 has been accepted for sponsorship by the non-profit artist organization, Fractured Atlas (, which means that donations from individuals and corporations are now tax deductible. And, Colleen Clark, video artist, has agreed to collaborate by documenting the progression of this installation and public art project.

I'm working on approval from the NH State House to display a part of the installation inside the building during the week of March 23 in honor of World Water Day. And I'll be at New England College in Henniker, NH for Earth Day working with students from the Environmental Action Club and the Art Department on the production of 13,699.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Art for Water

Several years ago when I read that five million people die every year from water-related diseases, I wondered why there was no alarm sounding. While the figure haunted me, it felt impossible to imagine, so I got my calculator and figured out how many people die every day. It was then I realized I had to translate this visually. The installation, 13,699, is being created to raise awareness of the number of people who die every day from water-related diseases because they do not have access to clean water. To symbolize these deaths, one clear plastic water bottle cap is used to represent each person. The object of this installation is to present the opportunity to experience physically the magnitude of this humanitarian crisis statistic.

The caps have been collected from the Keene, NH recycling center. Tens of thousands of clear plastic water bottle caps are strung on monofilament and hung from a 10´ x 10´ metal grid.
An 8´ x 8´ x 8´ steel frame supports the grid and has one point of access and exit. There is an open five foot circle in the middle. The clear plastic circular caps echo the open circular space within the square. The lines, strung with bottle caps, are hung from the metal grid at staggered three inch increments in a circular configuration around and above the open center circle.
The choice of using plastic bottle caps calls attention to other related environmental issues surrounding bottled water, such as privatization, depletion of aquifers, the environmental impact of plastic waste, the use of fossil fuels in making plastic, the carbon footprint of shipping bottled water, and the leaching of plastic into our water sources. Purchasing bottled water turns a basic human right into a commodity, affecting access for people in developing countries, as well as here in the United States.

Primarily a print maker and painter, my work, which is non-representational, has always been informed by the landscape. As my awareness of global water issues grew, I made the decision to make water the theme of all of my work. In 2007 I realized that my serene fine art could not
communicate all I wanted to say about these important issues and decided to design an installation that illustrated disturbing statistics with the same meditative qualities as my two-dimensional work. My intention is to engender an appreciation for and stewardship of one of our most precious natural resources – water, as well as inspire advocacy for the disenfranchised who are trying to live without basic needs.

Making it Public
The production of 13,699 is as important as the installation itself. Awareness of the global water crisis and the degree of suffering caused by lack of clean water is limited. I have worked with high school students in Keene, Peterborough, and Concord on the production of 13,699 and have engaged the public at GreenFest, an environmental festival, at Government Center in Boston in September, 2008 where bottle caps were strung by many participants. Graduate students at Antioch New England strung bottle caps after listening to my presentation at their semi-annual student coffee house in November, 2008. In July, the completed project will be installed at the Sharon Arts Center in Peterborough, NH and it will be part of the exhibit, Down Stream, at the Thorne-Sagendorph Art Gallery at Keene State College in September. Students at the Salem Academy Charter School in Massachusetts are drilling and stringing bottle caps as a senior service project. Working on this project in a group gives rise to conversation and debate about what we as individuals can do to change our personal water use habits. Using art to raise awareness exposes students to the option of creative expression as a path to social change. Oftentimes taken for granted – the experience of working on this installation deepens understanding of water’s essential nature.

For more information,
please call Christine Destrempes at 603.827.3744
or email at

13,699 is a sponsored project of Fractured Atlas, a non-profit arts service organization. Contributions in behalf of 13,699 may be made payable to Fractured Atlas and
are tax-deductible to the extent permitted by law.