Since March 2011 the artists, Joshua Rowan and Libby Reuter, have been creating images that draw attention to places in the St. Louis Region where the land is collecting the water, cleaning and conducting it to streams, and, ultimately, to the Missouri and finally the Mississippi River. These same rivers are the source of much of the region’s drinking water. Believing it is art’s role to make the invisible-visible, and that there is no more important resource for the future than clean water, Reuter and Rowan set out to mark little known waterscapes where one can see the watershed at work or where the natural streams have been harmed or buried. After the photographs are made, the fragile cairns are removed from the landscape. By exhibiting these powerful images (identified by their street address and GIS locator) at community festivals, the artists aim for “watershedification” a broad public understanding of the watershed’s importance.
Why “Water Marked with Art”?
Art makes the invisible visible. Watershed Cairns reveal water’s trail from a blade of grass to your drinking glass by calling attention to unseen creeks and streams buried under streets, malls, and homes; concealed by the bushes at the side of a busy road; channeled into a storm drain; or hidden in the corner of a city park. Cairns are photographed on the rivers to mark water treatment intakes or storm drain outflows, and to show recreational and transportation uses of the rivers. The Web map locates each Cairn and shows roads and hiking trails that lead to it.
Where’s the Art?
Watershed Cairns places glass markers, or Cairns, at outdoor sites in Missouri and Illinois. Because the glass is fragile, the Cairns are removed after being photographed. To see the Watershed Cairns large-format photos, look for exhibits at community festivals and in museums and other public places. Use the GIS address and street address on each photo to find the Cairns locations, and your own place on the watershed at the watershedcairns.com Web map.
What’s a Cairn?
Cairn [pronounced like caring without the final “g” —carin’] is the Celtic name for a stack of rocks marking a resting place or creating a memorial. Hikers use cairns to indicate the direction of a trail.
Libby Reuter’s art has focused on the St. Louis region and its connections to, and across, the rivers. In 1993, she organized Flood Mud with six artists who designed and packaged 1,000 bottles of water from the flood and presented performances to raise money for flood relief. From 1997 to 2000, she conceived and coordinated A Millennium Journey, a collaboration among artists and community organizations to celebrate the 1,000-year history of the region. In 2001, she exhibited her watercolor paintings, based on historical maps of the confluence of the Mississippi and Missouri rivers, at the “Our Waters, Our Rivers” Conference at the Missouri Botanical Garden.
She has exhibited her found-glass sculptures throughout the region, including Art St. Louis, Washington University’s Steinberg and Des Lee galleries, and in solo exhibits at Lindenwood University and Washington University School of Medicine. Her public artwork includes the relief sculpture Flow Too at the tunnel entrances of the St. Louis MetroLink Cross County extension.
Joshua Rowan is a photographer and multitalented graphic designer. Rowan’s background includes print, signage, logos, web and interiors for businesses locally, nationally and internationally. Regional graphic design clients include Pi Pizzeria, 105.7 PointFest, 4Hands Brewery, Tower Classic Tattoo, EvilPrints, and MATW. His Web design clients include individual artists Connie Mielke, Tom Huck, and Joan Hall, and the Sherry Leedy Gallery in Kansas City.
Rowan’s editorial photographs illustrated the 2011 Riverfront Times “Best of St. Louis” issue. His fine-art prints have been exhibited at the Los Angeles Center for Digital Art (LACDA), The Schmidt Art Center and were purchased by the Pi restaurant chain for its Washington, D.C., and Delmar Blvd. locations, and by private collectors.
To view his personal website visit – www.joshuarowan.com.