mariah anne johnson

River Residency

River Residency is an ongoing project that has grown out of my interest in and relationship to water, a necessary, contested, and dangerous resource. I grew up in Little Rock, Arkansas (USA), a small city beside a large river; it is a lifeline for trade, an ecosystem teaming with life, a respite from summer heat, and a source of destructive flooding. I now live in Los Angeles, California, a dry and thirsty place wedged between mountains and ocean, always growing and demanding fresh water from its neighbors. As the climate shifts, the status quo of each place becomes increasingly unstable, leading to more floods, more droughts and wildfires, too much water in some places and not enough in others. With these complexities in mind, I have been spending time on the banks of rivers, observing their flows, reflections, and ecologies, and exploring the possibilities of water as an art medium. The properties of water undermine using it for art. It cannot be grabbed, it cannot be still, it shifts its shape and state in response to its container. It is powerful, overtaking and filling all available spaces. Yet eventually it disappears, soaking in or drying up and dispersing. I want to learn to work in tandem with these forces. 

Segura River: Blanca, Spain

Quiet:

Cockatiel screaming, distant rooster, constant swallows.

The bells start at 11 AM on Sundays.

Arkansas River: Little Rock

Cardinal, honeybees, crow, yellow jackets, crickets, cicadas, and a bird I don’t know with a seagull cry.

The surface of the River is stripes of green, gold, and blue, changing too fast to draw. There is a continuous breeze from the east. Cloud covers the sun, and the River changes from amber to blue.

The river is brown and foamy. A fish jumped up.

There is a chemical smell in the air, like bleach, clean and fresh, and fried food.

At Cook’s Landing

A fish jumps up

So fast I do not see it,

Almost.

Leaving a ring of circles

And one bubble.

Yesterday it was turtles

Poking their heads up to breathe

Like floating sticks

And looking at me

With one inscrutable eye.

Life is on the wing here.

Feeling my body as part of the River.

Participating with the River in the water cycle,

The air squeezing all the moisture out of every pore.

Los Angeles River: Glendale Narrows

Herons, Egrets, Cormorants, Mallards, Canada Geese, Black Phoebe, Osprey, Ravens, Swifts, Surfliner.

A strange rainy day in July.

To make marks on the River surface like a cormorant taking off.

Great Snowy Egret slicing through the air like a silent knife.

Time moves slower in this spot.

Sense of scale and proportion are lost.

The chance to not move. The chance to be still.

A River is a time based medium

A River is a body, moving through space.