WANT TO GO?
"Troubled Waters" is up through mid-September at The Art Emporium, 823 Quarrier St., in Charleston. Call 304-345-2787 or visit artemporium.net.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- We hardly give it a thought. Turn on the faucet or the shower and fresh water pours out.
But where does the water come from, what's happening to the places it comes from -- and will the fresh water keep coming?
About 300 curious polystyrene fish and a host of photographs of blown-up mountains pose the question more literally at the exhibit "Troubled Waters," which opened Thursday at the Art Emporium, 823 Quarrier St., as part of this month's downtown Charleston ArtWalk.
Photographer Paul Corbit Brown recalls seeing an exhibit earlier this year of environmental artist Nik Botkin's display of illuminated fish, their bellies filled with trash mostly gathered from the waterways and walkways of West Virginia.
"When I saw that fish exhibit, it just blew me away," said Brown, who has long documented the swath mountaintop removal has cut across West Virginia as blasted rock is then dumped into valley fills that often bury miles of streams.
"We're both trying to talk about what's happening to the water and help people visualize water problems, to make it not quite such an abstract prospect."
Botkin originally staged an even larger exhibit of his fish at Huntington's Gallery 842 this April, on his way to completing a master's degree in sculpture at Marshall University. (He'll start this fall as an adjunct art professor at West Virginia State University in Institute).
His family had a house along a river where he grew up, Botkin said. "During my childhood, I saw these giant fish kills -- almost like you could walk across it. I can still see it. That image stuck in my mind forever."
All that goes into our waterways affects everything that depends on that water -- fish, humans, everything, he said. The "gray water" we flush into streams and rivers produced by human activity, including expired drugs, fertilizer run-off, inadequately treated industrial chemicals and chemical spills, is ingested by fish and aquatic life, he said. "And it stays in their bodies -- it can end up sterilizing or feminizing them."