From prolonged drought to flash floods, what are the particularities and paradoxes surrounding water in the American Southwest? Who has rights to water? How is water shared among people, plants and other animals? How do we reconcile diverse cultural and spiritual views of water? Parched: The Art of Water in the Southwest explores the complexity of water in the face of climate change and increasing populations. Eight Arizona-based artists created works, informed by scientific and cultural inquiry, that reflect diverse perspectives and provocative insight into our intricate relationship with water in our natural, cultural, and political landscapes.
Following the unique model of Coconino Center for the Arts’ past art and science collaborations, this signature project immersed selected artists and water experts in a weeklong intensive to learn about water in the Southwest. Tracing water from the snow packed peaks of Northern Arizona to the drainages of the Central Arizona Project, through free-flowing rivers to waste water treatment plants, artists explored water in its many forms and functions toward an exhibition of ambitious and insightful works.
This exhibition is produced in partnership with Coconino Plateau Watershed Partnership, Northern Arizona University, Sierra Club Grand Canyon Chapter, and Willow Bend Environmental Education Center and Parched curator Julie Comnick.
*All photos on this exhibition page credit Josh Biggs
Additional financial support from Arizona Department of Water Resources, Arizona Hydrological Society, Arizona Hydrological Society Foundation, Coconino Plateau Watershed Partnership, Grand Canyon Trust, Global Water Policy Consulting, Tusayan Sanitary District, Northern Arizona University, Tom & Tanya Klimas, Errol Montgomery, Natural Channel Design, and the Town of Tusayan. Grant funding is provided by the National Endowment for the Arts.
Klee Benally, Flagstaff : Klee (Diné/Russian-Polish) was born in Tuba City on the Diné (Navajo) Nation and currently lives in Flagstaff. He is originally from Black Mesa and has worked most of his life at the front lines in struggles to protect Indigenous sacred lands. Klee directed and edited “The Snowbowl Effect”, a feature documentary and for 20 years performed with Native American Music Award-winning rock group Blackfire (www.blackfire.net). He learned the Hoop Dance from his father Jones Benally and performed with the internationally acclaimed traditional dance group, The Jones Benally Family. Klee carries on traditional crafts such as leather working and silversmithing and is also a graphic and web-designer. Klee’s work has earned awards such as the “Best of Show” at the Museum of Northern Arizona’s Navajo Show. kleebenally.com
Josh Biggs, Flagstaff: Josh is a Flagstaff-based visual journalist and teacher. He has worked for magazines and newspapers throughout the U.S., and works and teaches out of Flagstaff and Prescott, AZ. His work has appeared in the New York Times, LA Times, USA Today, Running Times, Runners World, and many other publications. joshbiggs.com
Debra Edgerton, Flagstaff: received her MFA degrees at both the San Francisco Art Institute and Vermont College of Fine Art in Painting and Interdisciplinary Art. She is a signature member of the American Watercolor Society, the National Watercolor Society and a lifetime member of the Transparent Watercolor Society. Ms. Edgerton has received numerous grants and awards for her work that include the Arizona Commission on the Arts Project and Career Advancement Grants, the Elizabeth Graham Foundation Grant, the VanDenburg Grant, Contemporary Forum Artist Grant, and the Provost Award for Faculty Excellence in Global Learning. Debra is a Senior Lecturer for the School of Art at Northern Arizona University. Her recent watercolor paintings have received numerous awards and has been on exhibit locally, nationally, and internationally. Last spring, Ms. Edgerton was awarded Master Status through TWSA. debraedgertonart.weebly.com
Neal Galloway, Flagstaff: Through the re-appropriation of discarded materials into art objects that then reference and incorporate the natural world, Galloway explores our relationship to nature, waste, consumption, materiality, and our emotional connection to objects and the natural environment. Galloway makes works that take into account the environmental impact of the materials themselves and he explores these ideas through his own convictions, habits, possessions, and emotional response to nature. These works take a variety of forms including sculptures, environmental works, installations, paintings, photographs, performances, and videos. nealgalloway.wixsite.com/sculptor
Delisa Myles, Prescott: Delisa is a dancer with an M.F.A. in dance with an emphasis in choreography and performance from the University of Colorado. She has performed with several modern dance companies in the Denver/Boulder area including Colorado Repertory Dance Company, Helander and Company, Jane Franklin and Dancers, among others. In 1994 she joined the faculty of Prescott College, a small private institution with a mission that supports a personalized and experiential approach to education, where she co-created the dance program. Delisa is a founding member of Human Nature Dance Theatre, formed in 1994. Her freelance choreography and collaborations in recent years have investigated feminine archetypes, intergenerational work and environmental performance. delisamyles.com
Shawn Skabelund, Flagstaff: Born in Mt. Pleasant, Utah, and growing up in the small logging village of McCall, Idaho, Shawn’s fondest childhood memories were picking huckleberries in the forest and this childhood love of collecting continues to this day. The landscapes in which he lives become his studio, but rarely does he use them as subject matter nor does he draw or paint in them. Instead, he wanders in and observes, spending years collecting indigenous natural materials to create “new landscapes” and new forms. Shawn has a BFA in Drawing from Utah State University and an MA and an MFA in Drawing/Painting from the University of Iowa. Since 1993, Shawn has maintained an active exhibition schedule, showing drawings, sculptures, and numerous large-scale, site-specific, place-based installations at venues throughout the U.S. shawnskabelund.com
Kathleen Velo, Tucson: Kathleen was born in Chicago and lives in Tucson, AZ. She earned her BFA from the University of Wisconsin and MFA from Vermont College. Growing up in the Midwest where water was plentiful, she moved to the desert southwest in the 1980’s where she gained a new respect for the transcendent qualities of this life force. As a process-driven artist, she has created a simplified technique to maximize her interaction with the natural alchemy of light, chemistry, and space, using camera-less, pinhole and plastic camera techniques to capture her imagery. Velo’s work has been exhibited in galleries and museums nationally and internationally, including the Palace of the Governors Museum in Santa Fe, Tucson Museum of Art, Southeastern Museum of Photography, and The Center for Fine Art Photography. Velo is a Fulbright alumna and teaches traditional and digital photography in Arizona. kathleenvelo.com
Glory Tacheenie-Campoy, Tucson: Glory was born and raised in northern Arizona Dine/Navajo reservation. She is member of the Tall Tower (Kinyaanii) and Deer Spring Water (Bih bitooni) clans. She learned to create art as a youngster from her family and extended relatives. Glory has a Bachelor of Science degree in Ed. with a minor in Fine Arts from the University of Michigan and an MA in Interdisciplinary studies -American Indian Studies and Fine Art -sculpture and metalsmithing from the University of Arizona, Her work is inspired by her life experience and she has been exhibiting work locally and in several international venues. Selected Collections: Sky Harbor Airport, Phoenix, AZ, Denver Art Museum, The University of Arizona, Library of Congress, Washington, DC, National Museum of the American Indian, Washington, DC, Alexandrian Bibliotheca/Art Center Chatby, Alexandrina, Egypt. Southern Graphics Print Archive/Arizona Print Group.
Julie Comnick, Flagstaff: Julie’s paintings and drawings engage the pictorial languages of representation and narration to pose questions about social circumstances and practices. Her exhibition record includes solo shows nationally at contemporary venues including Hardesty Arts Center, Tulsa, OK; Mesa Contemporary Arts Museum, Mesa AZ; Space Gallery, Denver, CO; The Gallery at Flashpoint, Washington, DC; Zg Gallery, Chicago IL; and Creative Arts Workshop, New Haven, CT; group exhibitions internationally; and reviews in prominent publications including the Washington Post, Chicago Sun Times, and Dialogue Magazine. Her work has been supported by grants from the Arizona Commission on the Arts. Recently, Julie won the 2019 Viola Awards for Excellence in Visual for her project Arrangement for a Silent Orchestra, which was also named one of the top ten Phoenix art exhibits for 2015 by The Phoenix New Times named as. Julie lives in Flagstaff, AZ, where she is a member of the School of Art Faculty at Northern Arizona University.
Over the past five years, the Flagstaff Arts Council has hosted three major exhibitions at the Coconino Center for the Arts that address issues of importance to the local community. In 2012, Beyond the Border addressed immigration policy and its impact on the US/Mexico border region. In 2015, Fires of Change employed artists to express a different view of wildfire in northern Arizona and its importance to the forest. And in fall 2017, Hope and Trauma in a Poisoned Land explored the impact of uranium mining on Navajo people and land. juliecomnick.com.
Parched: The Art of Water in the Southwest promises to be just as, and maybe more, impactful than the major exhibitions that came before. The availability and quality of, and access to, water has never been more important. Facing a growing population, dwindling resources, and global climate change, solutions must be created or the future and well-being of life on this planet is in peril.