The Wave Exhibit reminds visitors how the world is connected by water

Families created waves for artists Susan Hoffman Fishman and Elena Kalman's interactive public art project, The Wave, celebrating water on Saturday, Oct. 7 for Family Weekend at the William Benton Museum of Art. (Kim Nguyen/The Daily Campus)

Families created waves for artists Susan Hoffman Fishman and Elena Kalman's interactive public art project, The Wave, celebrating water on Saturday, Oct. 7 for Family Weekend at the William Benton Museum of Art. (Kim Nguyen/The Daily Campus)

The 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan washed away thousands of houses, stranded or destroyed tens of thousands of boats, took more than 25 thousand lives and planted an idea in the mind of Hartford-based artist Susan Hoffman Fishman. Seeing how the wave reached every coast in the world, Fishman realized how water connects all of humanity. Working with Stamford-based artist Elena Kalman, Fishman created “The Wave,” an art exhibit emphasizing the universality and importance of water, which visited the William Benton Museum of Art at the University of Connecticut over Family Weekend on Saturday.

Hanging across the large window on the second floor of the Benton, The Wave filtered the sunlight through its multicolored polycarbonate strips and sheets. Everywhere The Wave goes, visitors are invited to cut out a wave from a sheet of polycarbonate or recyclable plastic. Whatever they think a wave looks like, or however they want to visualize the wave, they cut it out of a sheet of plastic. Then all these cutouts are strung together by the artists and hung as they travel around with their exhibit.

Benton Operations Manager Karen Sommer saw the exhibit at the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art and, in order to help expand the scope of the exhibit further, she invited the exhibit to the Benton over UConn’s Family Weekend. The goal of the project is to show communities and institutions, like museum visitors, how far-reaching our impacts on water can be.

“We’re not meant to solve any problems, we are meant to call attention,” Fishman said. She stressed how she felt that by making the exhibit interactive, visitors better understand the issue because it is something they physically work on, rather than just reading a plaque or description.

Interspersed with tables for Benton visitors to cut out their own waves were a number of tables from community groups related to water and conservation in some manner. Representatives of Park River Watershed, Joshua’s Trust, Willimantic Whitewater Park, Bring Your Own Bag and UConn Water Gardens were all present to talk to visitors. These groups came to help the exhibit in efforts to raise awareness and get the message across.

“I know it’s been said we’re all connected by water. Use it responsibly,” said Cheshire resident Fiona Dellostritto while cutting out her own wave.

Central to the messages visitors can observe concerning water are the ones about connectedness.

“I think it’s a symbol of community,” said first semester fine arts student Josh Hirshfield, “everybody adding their own piece.”

When the tsunami struck Japan in 2011, the repercussions were felt all over the world, for those who have families or friends in Japan and for those who immediately started putting together rescue and relief efforts. The Wave is reminder to all it reaches, everybody in the world is connected in one community, in cause and effect, by water. “Morning mist rising from a pond in New England can become a part of a tsunami wave in Asia or an ice crystal on an Antarctic iceberg,” The Wave website reads. “When we pollute ocean waters off the coast of Australia, acid rain falls on African plains.” 


Alex Houdeshell is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at alexandra.houdeshell@uconn.edu.