We Are All Downstream

We Are All Downstream

Artist: Mike Klein

City/State: St. Paul, MN

About the Work and the Artist: The creative process fascinates me as much or more than the final artifact. As a community-oriented artist, I know the power of art to hold space for difficult conversations, express intersectional identities, clarify community priorities, even heal. In my artwork, I appreciate the tensions between politics and aesthetics - where education and creation come together - where transformation is possible.

Rivers connect us in powerful ways and yet we often neglect or abuse our waterways. I’ve designed this sculpture to allude to the familiar architecture of our human engagement with the Mississippi, yet also integrating natural forms that remind us that resiliency flows through the natural world. We must learn these lessons to survive and thrive. The primary form of the piece is a rigid structure and constructed of chemically treated pine, reflecting our tendency to fight natural processes. The vertical elements are natural cedar, carved to mimic ripples on a sandy river bottom, transforming human structure into natural flow. The stones collected in the quadrants of the structure retain their natural form and reflect the diversity of our communities, and the neglected or ignored history of the original peoples of this land. Their resilience means they are part of our present-day communities, having resisted colonization, displacement, and genocide. The cattails emerging from the center of the structure also exhibit the quality of resilience as nature finds her way in and around and through human structures. Finally, the green semaphore atop the piece calls out in warning that we stay in the flow of the river so that our actions do not wreck us in the shallows.

Materials: Treated pine, natural cedar, hardware, natural materials

Dimensions: 6’W x 8’H x 6’D

Retail Price: $2,000