Both didactic and delicately breathtaking, printmaker Barbara McPhail’s exhibition “Shadows in the Water” brings an environmentally conscious message to the Kinetic Gallery.
The exhibition is based on McPhail’s interpretations of current events related to hydraulic fracturing and environmental abuse over a few decades. She represents complex subjects such as purposeful eviction of families for housing out-of-state gas workers and unethical natural gas escapes with a variety of rich, interesting textures and atmospheric colors.
McPhail employs a unique printmaking method she called “movable shape monotype” to create “inked collages.” The method involves pressing shapes made up of textured fabrics and other materials on a piece of inked Plexiglas to achieve a variety of texture.
McPhail said she was inspired to begin work on “Shadows in the Water” when she moved to Canandaigua, N.Y. after living near the Delaware River for 17 years. Her previous work focused on the beauty of nature and the river in particular.
“I was so upset about what I was hearing about hydrofracking. I realized I needed to talk about it in my work,” she said, explaining the change as a “natural transition.”
Many of the works in “Shadows in the Water” demonstrate two major visual themes simultaneously. They are both awe-inspiring nature studies and reflections on hydraulic fracturing’s negative societal effects.
A print titled “Shadows in the Water,” the exhibit’s namesake, demonstrates these two principles effectively. It depicts the shadows of two hydraulic fracturing towers on a colorful, seeping body of water that is both evocative in its fluidity and sobering with its environmental implications.
According to McPhail, the purpose of “Shadows in the Water” is twofold: She said she seeks to cultivate an appreciation for nature in viewers while at the same time helping them to “realize that they need to take action in their own lives.”
Many of the artworks in the exhibition come alongside plaques that feature poems, quotes or instructions - all of which direct viewers toward a more natural way of living.
One of the underlying themes of the exhibition is desire, a topic that McPhail said she is continuing to explore in her work. She said hydraulic fracturing is an indicator of “over-desire” because “we take too much; we get too much; we have too much.”