‘Drift and Drag: Reflections on Water’

Mark Feuerborn

The Mulvane Art Museum is hosting a new exhibit with a very important message to give.

“Drift and Drag: Reflections on Water” presents a gallery of artistic works from multiple artists across many different mediums, including sculptures, glass, paintings, photographs, videos, and slides on microscopes. Throughout the exhibit, a shift is noticed, whereas natural ocean and river objects such as seashells are replaced by discarded human waste, like plastic bottles. The theme seems to follow the human involvement with water, both the beauty behind it and the destruction of it.

Aside from the gallery’s stunning pieces, there are multiple events that will be hosted throughout the exhibits time at the Mulvane, including a reception during Topeka’s First Friday Artwalk on Feb. 6 that includes a dance performance by Ellie Goudie-Averill. A screening of the film “The Cherokee Word for Water,” which tells the story of Native Americans in Oklahoma and their struggle for clean running water, will also be hosted on March 6.

It is evident the message behind the exhibit is one of environmentalism, as many of the exhibits indicate, but with careful observation one can see why the exhibit’s message directly relates to Kansas. Curator of Collections and Exhibits at the Mulvane Art Museum Julie Myers stressed the importance of the message behind the exhibit.

“I think the takeaway message from the exhibition is that we really need to be pay attention to what we’re doing with water in Kansas,” Myers said.

Kansas has a rarely mentioned secret that dates back to the times of the dinosaurs and the concept of the super-continent Pangaea: The Ogallala Aquifer.

One of the largest of what are known as underground water sources, the Ogallala Aquifer stretches across eight different states in the Great Plains of the United States. This giant water supply is not infinite, however, and is currently in danger of overuse.

“The Ogallala Aquifer is what is known as fossil water, and the biggest abuser [of it] is corn farming, because it uses intense amounts of water for irrigation. The Ogallala Aquifer refills only very slowly, and so we are emptying it out much faster than it can be replaced. Some people have predicted that in between 25 and 50 years, the Ogallala Aquifer in Kansas will simply be empty,” Myers said.

The possibility of drying out the Ogallala Aquifer could result in a total terrain change in Kansas, and destroy generations of work by farming families.

“Ultimately there are going to be a lot of farmers in western Kansas that will have to give up their farming, and it will go back to a desert. They really need to go back to what’s called dry land farming, where they depend on rainfall as opposed to irrigation,” Myers said.

“Drift and Drag” has a powerful message that it aims to get across in any way that it can. Even ignoring the message the works convey, the art featured in the exhibit is absolutely breathtaking, and does a phenomenal job of exploring water, the essence of life.

“Drift and Drag” will continue to run until March 14. Other exhibits currently running in the Mulvane Art Museum include “The Hereditary State” by Daniel W. Coburn, which will run until March 21, and “Masters of the Mulvane: Ninety Years of Collection”, which will run until March 14.