Based in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Basia Irland describes herself as "a sculptor and installation artist, a poet and book artist, and an activist in water issues." Her thoughtful interdisciplinary projects combine beautiful craftsmanship, a fascination with research and a participative engagement with the viewer.
Basia Irland received significant attention for "A Gathering of Waters: Rio Grande, Source to Sea" (1995-2000) which was accompanied by a documentary in 1999. This complex participatory project involved an extended performance staged along the path of the world's third most endangered river, the 1885-mile Rio Grande/Río Bravo basin, which extends from Colorado, through New Mexico, along the Mexican border, and empties into the Gulf of Mexico.
"Hundreds of artists, government agencies, private water users, farmers, ranchers, Native American leaders, and ordinary people collected small river water samples in a canteen and logged their experiences in a field book. The canteen and log book, which were voluntarily passed hand-to-hand, community-to-community, traveled by "boat, raft, canoe, hot-air balloon, car, van, horseback, truck, bicycle, mail, and by foot," 43 tying diverse communities to a common interest."
Basia Irland's work physically embraces the notion of artist as field researcher and community activist calling attention to important water issues in the American Southwest. Through practical water retaining landscaping projects, artist books, and her curious wooden backpacks loaded with water samples and intricate maps, Irland brings a high level of art and engagement to her task.
This piece [see image] is a portable sculpture constructed to hold research and objects generated by the Gathering of Waters project. Made of ponderosa pine floorboards from a demolished Albuquerque church and sealed with piñon pine sap, the sculpture resembles a large, rectilinear backpack, with drawers containing water samples, hydrology reports, logbook, photographs, maps, and a carved wooden book, 'Rio Grande Atlas'.
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