August 29, 2022
This week we recognize Fredericka Foster and her contemplative and dedicated work focused on water.
"Our bodies are mostly water, and we are an intimate part of the hydrological cycle. Think about this when you first awaken – we are all water filters. We intrinsically know this, and that all life depends on water. Looking at water, or a painting of water, resonates emotionally in our bodies and minds."
Foster, a painter and photographer, works primarily with the theme of water to raise awareness and examine its centrality to life; how its movement shapes the world socioeconomically, environmentally and subconsciously. An accomplished colorist using a limited palette and many layers of paint, she works "in the romantic landscape tradition of Dove, Hartley, Burchfield and O'Keeffe." She has shown her work since the late 1970s, though the AIDS epidemic, healing and dying has inspired her paintings and installations since the 1990s. Buddhist practice influences her art and she has engaged in public talks on this topic with composer Philip Glass.
"Each water painting begins with a photograph. I travel to bodies of water ranging from the deep fjords of Norway to the industrialized Hudson River, choosing images that stimulate my imagination and that showcase the complexity of water as it plays with light, wind, and the earth beneath it. These photos are models for, but not dictators of, the painting process. My vision changes even as I seek to get the image down, and I experiment with ways to mix and layer pigments in order to trap the evanescent nature of the experience."
Foster often collaborates with artists, scientists and non-profit organizations on water in relation to the environment, pollution and climate change. To teach about the water crisis, she has presented her work to hundreds of scientists, including a performance titled Exploring a Catastrophe to Water Through Science and Artat the Sage Assembly 2017, based on a sewage spill into Puget Sound that same year; and an exhibition and talk at the Beacon Institute for Rivers and Estuaries. Her video series, Like a Circle in Water, was part of the Elements video series commissioned by the Tricycle Foundation in 2014, an official selection of the Awareness Festival and Blue Ocean Film Festival.
Fredericka Foster grew up surrounded by water, and with a Sami great grandmother who nutured a mythical reverence for water and water culture for the artist. As a cultural activist, through her painting and exhibition curating, Foster raises and sustains dialogue, transforming our understanding and misperceptions in relation to the environment. She is known for guest curating and participating in The Value of Water at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City (2011-2012), which was the largest exhibition to ever appear at the Cathedral. The show anchored a year long initiative by the Cathedral on our dependence upon water, and featured over 200 artworks by forty artists, including Jenny Holzer, Robert Longo, Mark Rothko, William Kentridge, April Gornik, Kara Walker, Kiki Smith, Pat Steir, Edwina Sandys, Alice Dalton Brown, Teresita Fernandez, Eiko Otake, and Bill Viola. Foster is the founder of Think About Water, a water advocacy website that gathers cultural activists and their work together in order to strengthen their cause. Foster’s notable one-person shows include Water Way, Beacon Institute for Rivers and Estuaries at Clarkson University, Beacon, NY; five solo exhibitions titled Water Way at the Fischbach Gallery, NYC (2013, 2009, 2006, 2004, 2002); Deus/Virus: Transforming the Protease, Riverrun Gallery, Lambertville, NJ; and Transforming the HIV Protease, The Norbert Considine Gallery at Stuart Country Day School, Princeton, NJ. frederickafoster.com
Featured Images (top to bottom): ©Fredericka Foster, Arctic Diptych Midnight Sun, 2017, oil on canvas, 48 x 36 inches; Covid 19 Drowning, 2021, oil on linen, 20 × 34 inches; Tree and Water, 2017, oil on canvas, 18 × 24 inches; Hudson River IX, 2007, oil on canvas, 42 x 64 inches; Himalayas Carved by Water, 2013, oil on canvas, 42 x 64 inches; below is portrait of the artist by Andrew Gladstone.