Learn a River’s Name

Learn a River’s Name


Learn a River’s Name

January 25 – April 21, 2018

Opening Reception January 25, 6-8pm


“Names are the way we humans build relationship, not only with each other but with the living world.” -Robin Wall Kimmerer

What’s in a name? It’s one of the first things we ask someone when we meet them, yet often quickly forgotten. It’s often something given to us by others, yet expected to serve as a distillation of our identity. Who gets to decide a name is often a question layered with power dynamics, whether it be a people, places, organisms, ecosystems.

Yet, despite these complexities, in a 2017 New York Times op-ed, from which the title of this show is taken, Akiko Busch writes, “Giving something a name is the first step in taking care of it.” Thinking of bodies of water, a name is an opening, a prelude, a microcosm, a way to be known – a first step on the pathway to meaningful connections between people and nature.  This exhibition is guided by this question: how can art help us to know a river’s name, to not only value it but know it, and therefore to seek to steward it?  With a focus on waterbodies in the Mid-Atlantic region, seven artists explore rivers and streams that are neighbors to the Schuylkill Center —the Schuylkill, Delaware, Brandywine, and Hudson Rivers.

Learn a River’s Name consists of artworks and art investigations that provide inroads to getting to know our rivers.  It includes projects that incorporated deep and focused engagement with a particular river, watershed, or stream.  Featured alongside final products are relics from artistic processes by which an artist got to know a river in ways that might feel a lot like how we might get to know a person.  Learn a River’s Name also includes art works that reveal something unseen about a water body’s characteristics, its essential nature.

Wendell Berry wrote, “People exploit what they have merely concluded to be of value, but they defend what they love, and to defend what we love we need a particularizing language, for we love what we particularly know.” Learn a River’s Name is an invitation to us to better know a river near us, a call to action to know not just its name, but its features, its needs, and how we can be a good neighbor to it.

Featured Artists:

Camp Little Hope:

Camp Little Hopeinvestigated the impact of sea-level rise on the Delaware River and neighboring communities during a residency at Glen Foerd on the Delaware. The result is a site-specific installation connecting sea-level rise data to Philadelphia neighborhoods.


Matthew Friday:

Matthew Friday explores the dynamics of the Hudson River through public projects that cultivate environmental literacy and foster ecologically resilient systems. The result of these collaborations are mapped out in a series of diagrams and paintings produced using dye from watershed plants and dredged river mud as well as a mobile field station that includes a provisional library, microscope and other tools to study watersheds.


Dylan Gauthier:

Over the course of his year-long residency project, highwatermarks, the artist has engaged with the Brandywine as a public site and investigates the relationships between image and landscape, policy and ecology, and culture, community and conservation in the Brandywine River region. highwatermarks: six ways of sensing the river is a micro level investigation of environmental issues that affect rivers and streams throughout the world, while acting responsively to the river itself, and evolving in shape over the artist’s year-long collaboration with the Brandywine River Museum of Art.



Ana Berta Hernandez:

Altering Internal Landscapes: In pursuit of unearthing bodies of Energy (The Marcellus)

Altering Internal Landscapes: In pursuit of unearthing bodies of Energy is a body of work that is the result of my research into areas of human rights abuses that stem from the practices and production of the oil and gas industry; specifically, their exploration of select geographical locations and the subsequent extraction of the resources “discovered” within these particular geological formations.  This series is a visual representation of ecological trauma, it aims to highlight the dissection and destruction of a physical and psychological landscape, whose vulnerable and shifting body print can be traced and mapped by the scars of injury left on the environment and all who inhabit it.


Acrylic, charcoal, nails on wood panel
24” x 48” x 3”

Mare Liberum:

Mare Liberum is an artist collective that gets people on the water through collaborative boat-building and explorations. The plywood boat hanging in the exhibition was designed by Mare Liberum and built by the collective and students at Haverford College, and launched on the Lower Schuylkill River at Bartram’s Garden in 2015.  It was painted this year in collaboration with artist Chloe Wang, who was involved in the construction of the boat as a student and now works in River Programs at Bartram’s Garden. The painting depicts features of the river that may not be immediately obvious, such as its tide cycle and many animal inhabitants. A similar painting will soon hang at the Bartram’s Garden Community Boathouse.

Sandy Sorlein

Sandy Sorlien is an environmental photographer and tour guide for the Fairmount Water Works, the education center for the Philadelphia Water Department. She has received three Fellowships in Photography from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, and taught photography at the University of the Arts for 12 years. Sandy was born and raised in the Schuylkill River Valley and lives in Roxborough near the Manayunk Canal. She fell in love with her native river while rowing on it out of Bachelor’s Barge Club on Boathouse Row. Sandy lectures throughout the watershed about her in-progress book project, Inland: Tracing the Schuylkill Canal from Coal Country to Philadelphia.

Shot from INLAND: Tracing the Schuylkill Navigation from Coal Country to Philadelphia

Danielle Toronyi:

Peak Discharge

Peak Discharge is a revelatory bioacoustic soundscape – a sound and video piece that utilizes water pollution data to examine human impact on the land. The translation of data is an expression of visible and invisible forces acting upon the landscape. The underwater sounds of the Lower Schuylkill River are manipulated with recontextualized water quality data from the United States Geological Survey. Information representing individual ambient water quality markers is directly represented through a system of sound wave translations. The resulting sound piece confronts the listener with an audio illustration of the impact of human development on our natural systems.