By Hayden Welty ’19
“Edward Burtynsky WATER” is an exhibit at the Phoenix Art Museum that features paintings and photographs of water from around the world in order to promote environmental issues relating to water.
Specifically, the art documents water’s many uses while highlighting its fragility and rarity.
I actually would have never gone to see the exhibit if it was not for an extra credit project in my chemistry class.
But when I did go, I was tremendously surprised by the facility and the exhibit having neve been to the museum.
I have to mention the exhibit’s locale: Initially, I imagined the Phoenix Art Museum as a silent, dull hall with 25-feet high walls covered by a constant coat of white–like art museums are portrayed in the movies. So imagine my surprise when I pulled into a parking lot filled with neat, modern sculptures and an elegant-looking building.
When I walked inside, the architecture looked even more stylish and polished, the staff was friendly and helpful and the entire facility impressed me.
The place is huge and is more like a complex than a building. The museum weighs in at 285,000-square-feet, making it the largest art museum for visual art in the Southwest United States. It displays a comprehensive collection of 18,000 works alongside international exhibitions, including “Edward Burtynsky WATER.”
As for the exhibit, it is located right next to the main entrance and occupies center stage in the museum.
“Edward Burtynsky WATER” is organized into multiple rooms with different themes relating to humanity’s manipulation of water and water’s impact on humankind.
As I walked through the dimly lit areas of the exhibit, I saw a plethora of stunning photos depicting water in various situations. Burtynsky’s photographs simultaneously portray the beauty, fragility and ferocity of water.
I began to understand how necessary yet delicate water is, and how without it, we would die.
And this does happen, in other areas; Burtynsky illustrates how everyone in the world does not necessarily have access to this crucial life source. From women in Africa to families in India, across the world, the quest for water is sometimes a laborious struggle.
Through the images, I was also able to witness the extraordinary length through which humans attempt to contain and manipulate water.
For me, the whole collection was moving and allowed me to comprehend humanity’s complex relationship with water: We need it to thrive, and yet we pollute and manipulate it all the time.
“Edward Burtynsky WATER” inspires us to reexamine the way we look at water. It urges us to recognize the way we treat the Earth and its precious resources.
The exhibit uses emotionally stirring images to convey a sense of urgency, drawing our attention to crucial issues around the globe. From flooding to thirst to pollution, “Edward Burtynsky WATER” compels us to act.
The exhibit is neither gloomy or cheerful, but instead allows one accurately reflect on how water affects us and we affect water.
If you want to go, “Edward Burtynsky WATER” is currently being shown at The Phoenix Art Museum. There is no additional charge for the exhibit, which runs through Sept. 18.