Starting January 17, 2023, the WCU Fine Art Museum at Bardo Arts Center presents an immersive art installation that explores cultural and historical connections to water, fishing practices, and sustainability. Created by ceramic artist Courtney M. Leonard as part of her BREACH series, the installation BREACH: Logbook23 | CORIOLIS is a response to the artist’s research in Western North Carolina and asks the question, “Can a culture sustain itself when it no longer has access to the environment that fashions that culture?” The exhibition will be on view through May 5, 2023.
A member of the Shinnecock Nation in Long Island, New York, Leonard grew up in a culture that centered around the sea. Water and whaling form an integral part of Shinnecock cultural practices and lifeways, which are being disrupted by climate change, coastal erosion, and other environmental stressors. Leonard started her BREACH installation series in 2013 as a response to these disruptions and through her artwork has continued to connect with a wide variety of Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities about their changing connections with water and subsistence. BREACH: Logbook 23 | CORIOLIS is the newest installation in this series.
Leonard begins her installation projects by visiting the location where her work will be shown and talking with communities in that region about their cultural connections with water. For this iteration of her BREACH series, Leonard visited the Western North Carolina region in October 2022 and met with members of the Cherokee community, WCU faculty in the sciences, scholars in the Cherokee Studies program, and WCU students. She visited several sites connected with water and fishing, including the Tribal Trout Hatchery in Cherokee and a historic fish weir on the Tuckasegee River. These conversations informed the final look and content of her installation, from her color palette and audio soundtrack to the shapes painted on the walls.
Reception for the exhibition will be held on Thursday, February 16, 2023, from 5-7PM. This event will include a gallery talk by Courtney M. Leonard, along with complimentary hors d'oeuvres and drinks. Free parking is available.
The WCU Fine Art Museum exhibitions and events are free and open to the public. Standard Museum hours are Tuesday through Friday, 10AM-4PM, and Thursday, 10AM-7PM. If you have any questions, please call (828)227-ARTS.