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Watershed brings work from thirteen contemporary regional and international artists to UMMA for an exhibition that asks visitors to recognize complex, tangled histories about the Great Lakes, its watershed, and the surrounding region. 

Through the use of experimental photography, painting, sculpture, and textile work, these artists explore issues of water security, pollution, and the deep cultural histories of the Great Lakes region. Taken together, their work highlights the complicated personal, political, and economic relationships between people, the water we depend on, the lands we call home, and the forces challenging the sanctity of it all.

These artists encourage us to consider the bodies of water as a resource linked to our survival, with complex histories of cultural exchange. Their stories are different, and their perspectives and interpretations are varied. But these artists demonstrate how art can contribute to and shape current dialogues on the region’s critical water crises.

Watershed includes many new, exclusive works commissioned by UMMA for the exhibition including:
A series of large-scale cyanotype prints from Washington-based artist Meghann Riepenhoff processed in the watershed of Lake Ontario on the Genesee River, near the former site of Eastman Kodak Co. production facility; Calligraphic paintings from Syrian-born and Dubai-based artist Khaled Al-Saai that explore how language can be used to visually connect us to meanings found in the watery worlds above and below the surfaces of the Great Lakes; A new mural by Toronto-based artist Bonnie Devine from the Serpent River First Nation will examine accounts of western expansion across the state of Michigan; and, Detroit-based musician, artist, and activist Sacramento Knoxx, along with The Aadizookaan, will fill the gallery with recorded song compositions made with water samples from each Great Lake and other sacred materials.

Lead support for this exhibition is provided by the University of Michigan Office of the Provost, Michigan Medicine, and the ​Eleanor Noyes Crumpacker Endowment Fund. Additional generous support is provided by P.J. and Julie Solit and the University of Michigan School for Environment and Sustainability and Department of English Language and Literature.

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