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A Video Installation Highlights How the West is Running out of Water

A portrait of the drought shines in infrared hues on 15 screens by artist Kevin Cooley.
All images courtesy of the artist and Catharine Clark Gallery.

Bathed in the fiery hues of Fallen Water, Kevin Cooley’s metaphorical message is painfully clear: the West is in hot water.

Three years ago, Cooley moved from New York to California and into a state of damaging drought.  Cooley was struck not only by the severity of the crisis, but also of the blasé usage of the disappearing resource. “You know, people watering their lawns in the middle of the day — all the things that I, even as a New Yorker, know that you shouldn’t do,” he tells The Creators Project over the phone.


He decided to go to straight to the source — literally. Fallen Water is a 15 channel video installation shot at different water sources across the west — in Nevada, California, and Colorado. While the screens show scenes of springs and streams, Cooley’s has inverted the images to give the composite installation a disconcerting aura of extreme heat — as if this were a visualization of lava flows rather than one of water. Nonetheless, “I’m not trying to be a public service,” the artist emphasizes. “It’s more of a meditation on the water itself. I’m not trying to educate people and I’m not trying to be judgemental. But I do think its important for us to think about affect on the environment.”

With this project completed, Cooley continues in this water objective with a project coming to the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts this winter— one which concerns a wholly different crisis: the staggering contamination of Colorado’s water after the recent mine spill. In this next work, he hints, he may integrate his medium of video with a found-art sculpture of rocks collected from polluted rivers…stay tuned. Below, more close-ups of Cooley's Fallen Water.

Fallen Water is currently on view at Catharine Clark Gallery in San Francisco. Keep up to date on Kevin Cooley’s work here.


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