The bustling seaport of New Bedford, a city rich in seafaring history and home to a vibrant art community, will be the site of WATER 2021, a series of new public art exhibits sponsored by the Massachusetts Design Art & Technology Institute.
The nonprofit DATMA will present the work of four internationally known artists who examine the role of water in the world, and in our daily lives. Additional exhibitions and programming — including in-person and virtual performances, artist talks, and workshops — will be held citywide June 17 through Oct. 17. All events are free and open to the public.
“Environment, pollution, sea-level rise, deserts, weather, and how all of it is changing and affecting every part of our world, as well as our individual way of life, was the impetus behind WATER 2021,” wrote Lindsay Mis, executive director of DATMA, in a recent e-mail.
The WATER 2021 lineup includes an outdoor exhibition, shown along the harbor front and in New Bedford’s Seaport Cultural District, that focuses on women working with water. “Harvesters of the Deep: Portraits of Fisherwomen from South Korea, America and the United Kingdom,” features large-scale, photographic portraits by artists Hyung S. Kim, Phil Mello, and Craig Easton.
Kim’s photos celebrate female divers on South Korea’s Jeju Island, known as Haenyeo. The divers, now recognized on the UNESCO List of Intangible Cultural Heritage, make their livelihoods by harvesting abalone, clam, and other sea life from the depths of the ocean. Kim has documented more than 300 Haenyeos since 2012.
Mello’s portraits feature local waterfront workers in New Bedford, including fisherwomen, purveyors, inspectors, welders, lumpers, and more. The selected works have been culled from a larger project that Mello began in 2008, documenting the local fishing industry and the people who work in it.
Easton’s series focuses on the unique herring industry in the United Kingdom during the early-19th to mid-20th centuries, and the tradition of “going to the herring.” Large fishing fleets would follow the annual herring migration route, and women, dubbed the “herring lassies,” would make the journey on land, stopping in each port to work the quays along the way. The female-only migrants would pass on the tradition from mother to daughter. Today, many are still working behind-the-scenes in factories and smokehouses and small family firms.
“There’s something that all of the women share — a grit in their eyes, while maintaining an elegance of femininity,” Mis observed.
A second exhibition, titled “280 prepared dc motors, cotton balls, cardboard boxes 13″ x 13″ x 13″, 2011/2021 by Zimoun,” features work by the eponymous (and mononymous) Swiss sound installation artist. The large sound sculpture uses small motors to swing cotton balls within cardboard boxes to create a melodic series of sounds. The exhibit will be at UMass Dartmouth CVPA Star Store Swain Gallery through Sept. 13. Floor-to-ceiling windows and outside speakers will allow for outdoor viewing, while visitors can also reserve timed tickets to the indoor gallery space.
“Our organization’s program committee was very attracted to renowned Swiss artist Zimoun’s sound sculpture for its simple elegance and approachability,” Mis explained. “His work is completely captivating and as one listens, you can hear variations of water — whether rain, ocean waves, or thunderstorms.”
Finally, the exhibit “Sea Scallops: Sentinels of the Deep” is a collaboration with the School for Marine Science and Technology at UMass Dartmouth. The exhibit features scientific archival photography of the ocean floor and showcases the high-tech underwater video technology developed by Dr. Kevin Stokesbury, Professor of Fisheries Oceanography, and his team of SMAST researchers. The research and data collected and analyzed by a team of women scientists has helped maintain specific breeds, like the sea scallop, and led to better management of fishing on the East Coast. The outdoor exhibit will be displayed in the storefronts of historic buildings throughout downtown New Bedford.
“There are some hauntingly elegant images that haven’t been seen before,” Mis said via e-mail. “And the work, this basic action of counting scallops with the human eye, has opened up doors to new research, and ultimately benefited the Northeast Atlantic fishing industry.”
DATMA WATER 2021
June 17-Oct. 17, New Bedford. More information and a complete event lineup at www.datma.org.
Diane Bair and Pamela Wright can be reached at email@example.com