DeCordova explores human’s relationship with water in Bodies in Water


On October 6, 2017, deCordova presents Bodies in Water, an exhibition showing the many creative ways photographers have been inspired by water. The works in the exhibition, showcasing deCordova’s deep holdings of photography, feature human bodies immersed in, emerging from, and interacting with water in visually bold and thought-provoking ways. While some artists address water as a form of recreation or relaxation, others focus on its scarcity or potentially dangerous nature.

Bodies in Water explores the deep connection humans have with water, whether for leisure, for necessity, or in enduring its power as a natural force,” says Martina Tanga, deCordova’s Koch Curatorial Fellow. “The powerful images show both universal relationships with water and historical ones—racial segregation in swimming pools, water pollution and drought, and refugees unsuccessfully crossing perilous waters.”

The exhibition is organized thematically in several sections:

  • A Return to the Womb: From Karl Baden’s First Bath 6/28/94 to Chris Enos’s Nude series, these works show figures interacting with water in ways that evoke inception and creation.
  • Recreation: These images show people engaged in water sports and other recreation. Some, like Charles “Teenie” Harris’s Swimming Instruction at Integrated Pool underscore the privilege often associated with such activities.
  • Water Scarcity: Photographs by Paul D’Amato, Mary Mattingly, and others address access and lack of access to fresh water. These works portray individuals quenching their thirst or seeking water in arid urban settings.
  • Dangerous Crossings: The exhibition features a photograph from Shimon Attie’s Portraits of Exile, which unites two human rights stories: the heroic rescue of the Danish Jewish community on fishing boats traveling to Sweden in 1943, and the present-day Danish response to the refugee crisis. Inspired by the element of water that links these two rescue stories, Attie created an underwater installation which lasted six weeks.

Artists in this exhibition include David Armstrong, Shimon Attie, Karl Baden, Stephan Brigidi, Paul D'Amato, Susan Derges, Chris Enos, Dore Gardner, Charles "Teenie" Harris, Russel Hart, David Hilliard, Annu Palakunnathu Matthew, Mary Mattingly, Arno Rafael Minkkinen, John O'Reilly, Melissa Ann Pinney, and Edward Weston.

Bodies in Water is organized by Martina Tanga, deCordova’s Koch Curatorial Fellow. The exhibition opens to the public on Friday, October 6, 2017, and will be on view through Sunday, March 11, 2018.

Related Programming

Lecture: “Thoreau’s Flint: The Pond and the Farmer”
Thursday, October 12, 6:30 pm

Join world renowned Thoreau scholar Jeffrey S. Cramer, Curator of Collections at The Walden Woods Project’s Thoreau Institute Library, to hear about the truths and myths around Henry David Thoreau’s other pond, deCordova’s neighboring Flint’s Pond.

Workshop: Representing Water in Mosaics
Tuesdays, December 5 and 19, 6:30–9 pm
$75 Members, $90 Not-Yet-Members

Inspired by the exhibition Bodies in Water, join artist Emily Bhargava for this two-session workshop to make a water-inspired mosaic. Techniques and short demonstrations will include glass cutting, glass on glass mosaic, contrasting warm and cool colors, suggesting water through the use of pebbles and shells, and incorporating mirror into mosaic.

Curator-Led Tour: Bodies in Water
Saturday, December 9, 12 pm
Free with admission

Dive into the exhibition Bodies in Water with this curatorial tour led by Martina Tanga, Koch Curatorial Fellow. Together we will look at how photographers capture the human body interacting with water, and explore how some of these representations alert us to social and political implications of water.

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