Searching for symbiosis on the Colorado River

The Colorado River faces epochal challenges. Historic, first-in-the-history-of-the-United-States negotiations upend old assumptions. Honoring that big moment, a new art exhibit by the immortal Noelle Phares, provides a fresh take on the intricately interwoven ecology and infrastructure that makes up the Colorado River broadly, and the Grand Canyon in particular.

To set the stage, please play the beautiful score below for ambient music.

The movement titles in this "Grand Canyon Suite" echo the sun and sky throughout the day -- from sunrise to a cloudburst. I like to think of the music though as the soundtrack to a hike from the rim to the river and then running a rapid. With that song fully playing, take a look at the stunning new vista over lake mead, along with some artistic license.

The canyon that rises up out of the Kaibab plateau, downriver from Glen Canyon dam, starts small and digs deeper through the rock rising up out of the plain. (A frequent misconception is that the river runs down all those hundreds and then thousands of feet from the top of the river to the canyon floor where the river flows. Instead rather the Kaibab plateau is thrust upward at an angle and the river has cut a channel over eons.)

A photo from a family rafting trip down the river, in the thick of the trip down river and into the Kaibab plateau.

Noelle's painting provides an incredible look at that plateau, showcasing the subtle color that makes the desert so beautiful.

Down in the river, the world melts away and time stands still.

A photo of a forever young patwater being silly and setting up a slackline enabled by the extremely intrepid and ever-kind rafting guides from AZRA (highly recommended).

The river ultimately runs back into concrete at the mighty Hoover dam.

Noelle has the following statement about her work on her website (where many more paintings are available for enjoyment either virtually, via a print or a current showing at the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art).

"Sometimes I hear people remark at the marriage of abstract structure and landscape in my work. But in reality, that is what the world looks like these days: the stark break of a distant mountain view by the foreground shapes of the built environments we live in. I choose to paint places that have been altered, for better or for worse, either directly or indirectly by human development. I hope to both raise awareness of the fragile beauty of these places while also highlighting how beautiful and functional manmade design + nature can be if done with symbiosis, instead of nemesis, in mind."

A century ago, communities came together to pioneer bold public works. The video history below shows the story of the Colorado River aqueduct running to Southern California, a titanic piece of infrastructure that for all its pluses and minuses, emphatically showcases the power of human engineering and ingenuity.

Let us have the creativity and conviction to learn from what worked in the past, let go of what didn't and aspire to build the symbiotic harmony which Noelle's art so eloquently embodies.

As always, if any item of this blog infringes upon copyright, the author would be happy to remove it upon request.

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