01.15.13Martha Golea

The Calling of an Artist

filamentous bacteria, artist lindsay olson"Filamentous Bacteria Nostocoida Limicola II" by Lindsay Olson. Mixed media. silver river, artist maya lin"Silver River" by Maya Lin - an 87' long representation of the Colorado River, cast in reclaimed silver. Hanging in Aria at City Center in Las Vegas. histoire d'o, artist marie khouri"Histoire d'O" by Marie Khouri, cast concrete sculpture, at Olympic Village Station in Vancouver

“As an artist you stand firmly in the middle of the river as everyone else floats past. It is your responsibility to notice what’s going on around you and point it out so they can see it too.”

The Responsibility of an Artist

This is something one of my Art professors told his students when I was in college. In a freezing studio, covered in the mess of my current artwork, his words resonated in my mind. What could be a higher calling than helping people see the essential, powerful details of life they were overlooking?

Of course, many artists are only interested in helping people see how bizarre they are. But many of the most notable artists in history stood firmly in the rushing river of culture and showed us what we were missing. Some examples: Time LIFE Photography, Andy Warhol, George Orwell. Some of my favorite artists today take on this role in their own way; boldly, intelligently, beautifully.

Artist as Educator

Lindsay Olson

Olson’s work is my most recent obsession.  Being both an artist and a water geek, when I saw her conceptual pieces about municipal waste water treatment, all my stars aligned. Lindsay has spent countless hours immersed in the smelly, fascinating world of waste water treatment, observing the oh-so-essential bacteria, pipes, and valves. From her observations she creates colorful illustrations and intricate, tremendously skilled textile pieces. Her goal is to challenge the public conception that sewage is something to flush and forget by educating about the importance of water treatment.

Artist as Activist

Maya Lin

I first encountered Lin’s work in the Phoenix Art Museum; “Pin River – Colorado River” is one in a series of US rivers rendered in steel straight pins, pounded straight into the wall. It’s one of those pieces that you want to understand; a familiar form you can’t quite identify. But whether you can identify the rivers in her work or not, Lin’s versions easily rival the originals in their beauty.

The popularity of the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington D.C. (one of her earliest designs) tends to overshadow her more recent work, but it’s very much worth shining a light on. Lin embraces her calling as an artist and activist in her latest project, “What Is Missing”, an endless multi-media experience broadly focused on how our changing planet impacts species. ”…if I can get you to look at something afresh — if I can get you to stop assuming you know what it is, maybe you will pay closer attention. It is about slowing you down…”

Artist as Inspiration

Marie Khouri

Marie Khouri’s sculptures barely need description. The simplicity of her work is so pure, with just a look or a touch you immediately gain a better understanding of the material and the subject. Vancouver is lucky to host her original droplet shaped sculpture, “Histoire d’O”, a clear icon of the city’s water wealth. Just like water, I’m willing to bet the sculpture is constantly overlooked by residents who take their abundance for granted. But those who appreciate the value of water and the beauty of fine art would surely stop and revel at the giant cast concrete raindrop.

If you have any favorite water- or nature-related artists, I want to hear about them. Please leave me links in the comments. And if you’d like to argue the benefit of art for art’s sake or popular vs. elite art you can find me on Twitter. I love getting to use my art degree…

Posts you may also like

Martha Golea

A seasoned communicator and passionate water conservationist, Martha Golea tracks projects in progress and reports on usage of new and exploratory irrigation technology and water management strategies. Martha also regularly contributes content on water management and conservation to Lawn & Landscape Magazine.


Refresh Image


  1. Tuesday, 7:34 Alan Harris

    Nicely done! I noticed on the Facebook #landscapechat calendar ( that Lindsay Olson is going to be the guest at 2 PM ET on Wednesday, January 16th…pretty cool! Did you learn about her on

    • Tuesday, 9:09 Martha Golea

      Yes, Lindsay will be our #landscapechat guest tomorrow (yay!) and I did learn about her from your Water Matters Weekly (thanks for sharing)! Nothing slips past you, huh?>

  2. Tuesday, 11:41 Karen Kennedy

    I am in Southern California and lucky enough to be able to visit the Getty Museum often.
    The Central Garden at the Getty Center is the work of artist Robert Irwin. The portion of the garden that I am most drawn to is the stream that was created on the hillside, with a winding path that has bridges so that you can walk over the stream. What is really unique is that Irwin purposely varied the amount of rocks used in the building of the stream to create more or less “noise” as you walk the pathway. At the top of the stream it is peaceful and smooth. As you head down the pathway, the stream gets louder as the water is forced to move across and against rocks. The stream ends in a cascade of water over a stone waterfall or “chadar,” into a pool in which a maze of azaleas floats. It doesn’t get better than this! Oh wait it does(!!!) as admission to the Getty Museum is free. (There is a fee for parking) Garden tours are scheduled several times per day and are also free.

    • Tuesday, 11:46 Martha Golea

      That sounds amazing, Karen! Such a great description. I’ll have to schedule a visit. I love how artists can create a complete sensory experience with their work that totally draws you in and holds you captive.

  3. Thursday, 1:39 Caroline Weilert

    Love this

© 2014 ValleyCrest Landscape Companies