I collaborate with local communities around the world to focus on important water issues, especially rivers, waterborne diseases, water scarcity, and climate disruption. I work closely with scholars from numerous disciplines building rainwater harvesting systems; connecting communities and fostering dialogue along the entire length of rivers; filming and producing water documentaries; launching hand-carved ice books embedded with seeds into waterways; and creating waterborne disease projects, most recently in Egypt, Ethiopia, India, and Nepal. My working process occurs out in the field along streams and creeks.
One ongoing international project is The Gathering of Waters, which establishes working relationships between people, and connects diverse cultures along the entire length of rivers emphasizing that we all live downstream. The sculptures accompanying these projects include Backpack/Repositories that contain River Vessel Canteens, Logbooks, watershed maps, clay samples, stream data, video documentaries, and photographs. The emphasis of The Gathering of Waters is on process – collaborative and locally based actions encompassing an ethic of inclusion that focuses on important scientific and artistic outcomes along rivers. Art and cultural critic, Lucy Lippard, writes; “Irland takes the journey herself, swimming upstream against the currents of a society not yet convinced that our comforts are worth sacrificing for our resources. A Gathering of Waters is a major model for eco-art.”
Ice Receding/Books Reseeding, another continuing global series, emphasizes the necessity of communal effort and scientific knowledge to deal with the complex issues of climate disruption and watershed restoration by releasing book-shaped, seed-laden, ephemeral ice sculptures into streams. River water is frozen, carved into the form of a book (some weighing as much as 300 pounds), embedded with an “ecological language” or “riparian text” consisting of local native seeds, and placed back into the stream. The seeds are released as the ice melts in the current. I work with stream ecologists, biologists, and botanists to ascertain the best seeds for each specific riparian zone.
These projects help restore the necessary arteries of our land and remind local communities that in this radically interconnected world, it becomes our collective responsibility to compassionately take care of each other and our environment so we ensure that the next generations will have enough clean water to survive and thrive.