Last month, Arizona Town Hall convened a statewide forum on how to ensure that Arizona’s future water needs are met. In honor of the event, the Arizona Commission on the Arts produced a limited series of postcards featuring the words of Arizona’s Poet Laureate Alberto Álvaro Ríos and images created by Tucson-based artist (and 2014 Artist Research and Development Grant recipient) Kathleen Velo.
Through the generous support of APS, Arizona Public Service, three designs were printed and distributed at Arizona Town Hall. Each design features one of Professor Ríos’ water-themed greguerias and imagery derived from Velo’s Water Flow series.
Professor Ríos describes greguerias as “short, pithy one-liners combining high seriousness, humor, and epiphany.” He first began writing greguerias about water as part of a project commissioned by the City of Tempe in 2001. Dozens of these compositions were carved into granite stones and installed in the seat wall around Tempe Town Lake.
For her Water Flow series, Kathleen Velo used an unconventional technique to capture images of a peculiar, haunting beauty. Without the use of a camera, Velo creates her photograms by submerging color photographic paper directly into rivers and lakes in the middle of the night. At just the right moment, Velo exposes the paper to a light from a hand held flash. The resulting images offer a whole new perspective on Arizona water quality.
“The concept of water quality in the Southwestern United States, and the inherent alchemy that occurs as a result of it, are the foundation of my current work,” Velo said of her Water Flow photograms. “The alchemy of photographic emulsion combined with the minerals, salts, pollutants, and other elements in the water create a unique documentation of water contents.”
Another sort of alchemy occurred when the poet’s words and the artists images were combined. Though neither the images nor the greguerias were created for this occasion, both Ríos and Velo are pleased with the results of this unexpected union.
“The postcards are wonderful,” excaimed Velo. “I think my Water Flow images, and Alberto’s elegant words complement each other beautifully. The words and images take on a new dimension together.”
Waxing philosophical, Ríos reflected, “Words intend to mean something, but so often their cleverness, their intrinsic remarkability, their daring—it leads us all astray, away from what the words actually are. Juxtaposing artful words about water with water that is itself visually artful, however—this is the marriage to look for. Words about water in water, this seems ideal.”