Tower Rock: south of Saint Louis, summer 2022, when the Mississippi went dry... 24 by 36 inches. Oil on canvas. Gallery wrap. Completed April 2023.
Did you know that the Mississippi River went dry last summer? I didn't--at least until running into some news photos. A little research revealed that not only the Big Muddy, but the Rhine, the Po, the Yangtzee, and other major world rivers were having similar issues. Some experts blamed natural variation, others global warming. Most lamented that since barges could no longer travel up and down the longest river system in the world, we would have to resort to more expensive means of transportation and therefore pay higher prices for things.
What do we think a river is? What happens when you go out in your back yard and pour a pitcher full of water on the ground? The water sinks in. It doesn't run off. And eventually that pitcher of water becomes part of the underground aquifer; that hidden body of fresh water that we have been poking millions of holes in and attempting to pump dry. A river isn't just what we see running under the bridge. It is that, plus the groundwater, plus the aquifer--a complex interconnected system. So why did the Mississippi run dry? Maybe it's because US farmers raised almost 16 billion bushels of corn in 2022--almost none of it for human consumption. Five billion bushels went for biofuels and almost all the rest went to feed the animals we consume. And corn takes a lot of water and fertilizer. Sustainable? Hardly. What can we as individuals do? Lots. But...
This painting was started with the intention of alerting people to an overlooked climate change-related natural catastrophe, and it evolved into something else. The two young people have a panoramic view as the disaster unfolds. They see it happening. They know why it's happening. But they are not upset. They are unemotional, detached, watching it play out. They are resigned to the outcome. They know this car is out of control and the brakes have failed. Yikes.