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NATHALIE MIEBACH: THE WATER LINE
The Water Line, a solo exhibition by contemporary basket weaver Nathalie Miebach, features a large-scale woven installation, sculptures, and watercolor musical scores that translate weather data into art. The exhibition addresses the scientific and emotional effects of 2017 hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria, three of the five most catastrophic hurricanes in U.S. history. Miebach is fascinated by the two narratives generated by every disaster: one based on science, encompassing temperature, wind and pressure gradients, and one based on human experience, which provides important emotional perspectives and offers lessons to be learned.
The artist’s approach to data visualization pushes the means by which scientific data is commonly represented and demonstrates the beneficial marriage of art and science. In her woven sculptures, she uses basketry techniques to turn a simple grid of information into a three-dimensional object that can be studied in the round. She weaves together human experience alongside quantitative data to portray the complex narratives that occur during natural disasters. To further the conversation around these events, Miebach partners with composers and musicians to translate her watercolor scores into musical compositions, so that her works also can be experienced through sound. Visitors can hear a selection of these compositions as they view the exhibition.
Spanning close to 17 feet long, The Burden of Every Drop (2018) tells the fraught story of the effects of Hurricane Maria on Puerto Rico by combining weather and other numerical data with anecdotal information from news reports about the storm’s aftermath. Miebach juxtaposes the fierceness of the wind and rain with the stark silence of communication, caused by the breakdown of electrical systems on the island. The piece begins with wind data that crescendos, as the storm reaches landfall. Miebach creates a sort of unraveling quilt to represent the chaos of information, including the underestimated death toll, the fleeing population, and the slow reconstruction of the U.S. territory.
Like a modern-day Kandinsky painting, Miebach’s watercolor musical score, Harvey Twitter SOS (2018), depicts the effects of Hurricane Harvey on Houston, Texas, as abstract forms that stand in as musical notations. She uses color and geometric shapes to tell the traumatic narrative of the hurricane, layering precipitation and wind data with responses from individuals who turned to Twitter for help when the emergency response system became overloaded. Like the clanging of symbols resonating across the paper, large circles depict different concentrations of tweets in areas where people were in distress.
The Water Line serves as a cry for change in how response and recovery are handled across the country. Two years after these natural disasters occurred, Miebach uses her artwork to comment on the reality of living amidst an increased risk of flooding—a reality all too familiar to Houstonians. HCCC Curator Kathryn Hall commented on the relevance of this exhibition in the current moment: “Over the past few years, the City of Houston has seen an uptake in the amount of flash flooding and precipitation that falls annually. By portraying the different emergency-response-and-recovery narratives of three, recent major hurricanes, Miebach questions how we can adapt to the increased precipitation in our own backyards. She encourages us to think collectively about what this means for our future and to share our own stories.”
Nathalie Miebach: The Water Line is curated by HCCC Curator Kathryn Hall.
About Nathalie Miebach
Based in Boston, Massachusetts, Nathalie Miebach is a contemporary basket weaver who translates the scientific data of ecology, climate change, and meteorology into musical scores, sculptures, and large-scale installations. Miebach holds an MFA in sculpture and an MS in art education from the Massachusetts College of Arts in Boston. She has exhibited across the United States, and her work can be found in the collections of the Denison Museum of Art, the DeCordova Sculpture Museum, the Spencer Art Museum, Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, and Facebook, among many others. She has received numerous fellowships, awards, and grants, including the Massachusetts Cultural Council Artist Fellowship (2017), IAPP Artist Residency (2016), ART Lab Residency (2015), Oxbow School Artist Residency (2014), Pollock-Krasner Award (2011), and the TED Global Fellowship (2011). Visit www.nathaliemiebach.com for more information.