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The Art of H2O

Water as muse at the Peabody Essex Museum


A glass sculpture of a water droplet, part of the Ripple Effects exhibition. Photo courtesy of Peabody Essex Museum

What could be better during the dog days of summer than an entire exhibition devoted to water? Keep yourself and your family cool by visiting Salem’s Peabody Essex Museum for a surprising take on the world’s most familiar compound.

The exhibition, Ripple Effect, The Art of H2O, examines water as a source of artistic expression, featuring 16 artists who represent water in its different states: solid, liquid, and gas. Staged in the Peabody’s Art and Nature Center, the show encourages viewers to interact with the art. For instance, Ned Kahn’s Sea of Clouds involves a pool of ultrasonic fog that can be manipulated by the viewer. Air currents, altered by touch, create fog patterns that change from liquid to vapor and back again. Similarly, the nearby Fog Chamber encourages visitors to create their own clouds using a hand pump and paying careful attention to air temperature and pressure. 

Other works include a sound station with “music” by Norwegian composer Terje Isungset, who created several instruments out of glacial ice and recorded “concerts” using different combinations of the instruments. Jane Fredericks makes drawings directly in rivers and other bodies of water, letting currents and tides “paint” watercolors onto paper. On display is Fredericks’ Tracings, New Haven, which was made by placing a large sheet of watercolor paper directly in the bed of the New Haven River. 

The exhibition is especially kid-friendly, with multiple stations where children can learn about different aspects of water. There are lessons about the molecular structure of water, the water cycle, and how pollution affects the environment. Many of the stations have quizzes, building projects, or videos that add context or scientific background to the surrounding artwork. 

Ripple Effect, The Art of H2O is on display at the Peabody Essex Museum’s Art and Nature Center, 161 Essex St., East India Square, Salem, Mass., through April 30, 2012. Admission is $15 for adults, $11 for students with a valid college ID, and free for children under age 16. The museum is open Tuesday through Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; phone: 978-475-1876. To get there by public transportation, take the MBTA Commuter Rail Newburyport/Rockport line from North Station to Salem station; the museum is a five-minute walk from there.

Nicole Shelby can be reached at nicoleshelby@gmail.com.


2 Comments on The Art of H2O

  • Anonymous on 08.02.2011 at 9:36 am

    Exhibit dates

    Should this say it’s on display until April 30, 2012 instead of 2011? I’m assuming this isn’t an old article because nothing is written underneath the event info.

  • davidkeefe on 08.02.2011 at 2:01 pm

    RE: Exhibit Dates

    According to the museum’s website (link in the article), the exhibit runs through April 30, 2012.

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