Microplastic drawing #6, 2021
charcoal on Arches paper, 30x40 cm.
For many years, Barbara Benish's art has invoked systems of water- oceanic, lentic, and riparian- as echoing connectors of human life. But more than that, water is life, as the Dakota expression sings: mni wiconi. More recently, her work has explored the myth of the River Styx, and how it translates into a contemporary story of the death of our water systems, induced by human indulgence and neglect. Where once was Charon, bringing the dead across the River to the other side, now is the water itself, poisoned, as predicated in the Styx legend.
Benish will be working with the Rhine River, directly present out the gallery windows, flowing through Bonn towards the North Sea. Named Renos by the ancient Celts, it has since Roman times been one of the major transportation routes, and continues until this day to carry major shipping cargo across the European continent. This has resulted, in the 20th century, of the river becoming home to one-fifth of the world's chemical manufacturing plants, as it's geographical axis made coal, then oil, transportation easily transportable. Today, over 6000 toxic substances have been identified floating in the waters of the Rhine. Due to a defining environmental disaster in 1986, when a fire exploded a chemical warehouse in Basel, Switzerland, turning the entire river red and lighting it on fire, governments paid attention and made some changes. Water quality has improved somewhat, but the chemicals remain.
opens June 29, 2022