Have you seen this artwork at the Museum? It stands near the front doors and welcomes each visitor with its strong steel base and light refracting crystal. Upon first glance you might think it is an abstract work of art, but in fact it tells an important story: the relationship of humans to the natural environment.
An ice meadow is a naturally occurring phenomenon that involves floating pieces of ice in the winter months to be washed up on shore and remain there until spring. The ice acts as a natural barrier to tree growth and helps to deposit organic materials on the shore that promote the growth of smaller plants. When a river is polluted, this natural process is threatened.
In 2012, when Alex Bernstein recreated an ice meadow from a lake fed by the Cuyahoga River out of glass, he was not only bringing attention this type of terrain, he was also commenting on environmentalism and the importance of a healthy river.
The Cuyahoga River caught on fire several times over the course of the Industrial Revolution. As industry grew around the city of Cleveland, OH, the river became the dumping ground of manufacturing by-products. But in June 1969, when an oil slick ignited again, it coincided with the beginning of the environmentalism revolution. Later that summer, Time magazine used a photograph of the Cuyahoga River on fire as its cover and gained national attention. This focus on the health of our planet inspired the first Earth Day in 1970 and helped to pass The Clean Water Act of 1972.
~ Contributed by Assistant Curator Whitney Richardson