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Jennifer Bonner's 'Watermarks' Exhibit Floods the WUHO Gallery in Ankle-Deep Water. No Stilettos, Please!

"No Stilettos, Please": architect Jennifer Bonner flooded a gallery and warned visitors to watch out for their shoes
"No Stilettos, Please": architect Jennifer Bonner flooded a gallery and warned visitors to watch out for their shoes
Nils Timm

Sometimes art leaks.

Or so architect-turned-installation artist Jennifer Bonner might tell you.

For "Watermarks," an ephemeral meditation on life in the time of global warming, Bonner "flooded" Woodbury University's WUHO gallery in Hollywood last week and set observers free to wade in ankle-deep water as they cultivated paths through a sea of narrow, white, vertical high-water markers that rose over their heads. Each noted an individual flood and its human impact. Bakersfield, Mesquite, Desert Hot Springs, San Diego and points beyond -- place names that created a haunting three-dimensional new map.

Narrow vertical lines immersed in a black reflecting pool noted the heights of various floods in areas across the U.S.
Narrow vertical lines immersed in a black reflecting pool noted the heights of various floods in areas across the U.S.
Nils Timm

The results quietly delivered a tactile, resonating piece that connects the global to the Southern Californian, the scientific to the individualized human experience.

The show, which opened Sept. 7, also could be the only opening invitation this year to feature the text "No Stilettos, Please." The warning was Bonner's attempt to prevent punctures to the rubber pondliner that waterproofed the gallery-long shallow-box constructed to contain the liquid installation. Watermarks also arrived with its own installation-specific footware. Bonner outfitted viewers with disposable plastic boot covers that more typically are worn by cowboys and workers on American cattle ranches.

The show weaved together multiple strands of the interactions of rising waters, which Bonner has studied for over a decade. From her time as an architectural student at the famed Urban Studio in Alabama when a woman who lived on the flood plain showed her how locals kept track of rising waters -- the height they rose to on nearby picnic tables -- to watching tourists wade through the annual floods of Venice, Italy's opulent San Marco Piazzo in disposable plastic shoe covers furnished by nearby merchants. From Bonner's collection of newspaper clippings that document the advent of global warming in the United States to the homeless who were rescued from a concrete channel during December rains in Los Angeles.

Or a couple -- Guy and Diane Creekmore -- who took to a boat to return to their home when floods overtook Vicksburg, Mississippi. (A number of these stories found their way, in abbreviated fashion, to the backs of the placemarkers at the WUHO Gallery.) In some cases, Bonner noticed the impacts of floods worsening, in others, she saw whole new flooding areas due to global warming.

Though originally planned as a week-long installation, the show was taken down, a casualty, ironically of a leak. Not to worry, the global warming it explored looks to be around and experience-able on a seemingly permanent basis. Careful in those Jimmy Choos, girlfriend!

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