Photo by Mary Lance
Basia Irland is an author, poet, sculptor, installation artist, and activist who creates international water projects, many of which are featured in her book, Water Library, published in 2007 by University of New Mexico Press. The book focuses on projects the artist has created over three decades in Africa, Canada, Europe, South America, Southeast Asia, and the United States. Through her work, Irland offers a creative understanding of water while examining how communities of people, plants, and animals rely on this vital element. Irland is Professor Emerita, Department of Art and Art History, University of New Mexico, where she established the Arts and Ecology Program.
She often works with scholars from diverse disciplines building rainwater harvesting systems; connecting communities and fostering dialogue along the entire length of rivers; filming and producing water documentaries; and creating waterborne disease projects around the world, most recently in Egypt, Ethiopia, India, and Nepal. She is regularly commissioned to do river restoration projects.
Irland lectures and exhibits extensively and was the only artist (and the only woman) invited to participate in the Foundation for the Future's International World Water Crisis Forum in Seattle, Washington, 2010. She is the recipient of over forty grants including a Senior Fulbright Research Award for Southeast Asia, Woodrow Wilson Foundation Fellowship Grant, and a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Research Grant. Her work is in collections around the world and has been included in books published in Germany, England, Switzerland, and the U.S.
In 2009 Irland had five solo exhibitions; four group shows; and a cinema screening of her seven video documentaries. She was reviewed in "Art in America"; invited to create projects along two tributaries of the James River in Missouri; was the first artist honored for her work with the environment by the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance and the Bureau of Land Management; and she received a Harville Award from Evergreen Collage, which brought Irland to Olympia, Washington four times to work across disciplines on projects focused on the Nisqually watershed.
In 2010-2011 she has presented lectures at Stanford University (four venues); the University of California Davis (with nine institutes, centers and departments sponsoring her); San Francisco State University; and the Santa Fe Convention Center. Commissioned watershed projects have taken place in West Virginia on Decker's Creek, heavily polluted with acid mine drainage; and Georgia's Oconee River, with an emphasis on fresh-water diatoms. Irland worked via inter-net with environmental artists on the Karun River, Shoushtar, Iran.
Awards, Grants, and Fellowships
The interdisciplinary nature of her work and its impacts in fields other than art has been recognized by grants and awards from a number of agencies and foundations not usually found in an artist's resume; the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Research Foundation, the President's Council on Sustainable Development, Bureau of Reclamation's Water Conservation Program Grant, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife. In addition, Irland has received over forty other awards including a Fulbright Senior research Fellowship for Southeast Asia, Woodrow Wilson Fellowship Grant (sponsored by the Rockefeller Foundation), a McCune Foundation Grant, a Turner Foundation Grant, and a Frank Waters Foundation Literary Award. The University of New Mexico honored Irland's research as an artist by appointing her to the prestigious post of Faculty Scholar.
In 2008 she received an interdisciplinary research grant from UNM with the Chair of Biology to create a video documentary, Bilharzia Blues, about the waterborne disease, schistosomiasis in Nepal, Egypt, and Ethiopia.
2007 Water Library. University of New Mexico Press. 234 pages. ISBN 978-0-8263-3675-0. Buy the book
Water Video Documentaries
Written, filmed, directed, and produced by Irland
See videos for descriptions and preview clips.
Audio CD Recording
Clandestine Calaveras is an audio CD with words of chemical pesticides found in the Calaveras River, California, sung by Mezzosoprano, Laurelle Mathison, with Cellist Scott Halligan and music by Andrew Ardizzoia. Also includes a set of 9 postcards with molecular structures and gas chromatography/mass spectrometer chromatograms of chemical pesticides found in the Calaveras River, California overlaid on images of the river.
Exhibitions and Collections
Over forty one-person exhibitions, and more than 150 group exhibitions. Represented in numerous private and public collections, including: Victoria and Albert Museum, London, England; Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, N.Y.; Chicago Art Institute; National Archives of Canada, Ottawa; National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington, D.C.; University of Massachusetts Art Museum, Amherst; Ruth and Marvin Sachner Archives of Concrete and Visual Poetry, Miami, Florida; Albuquerque Museum; Museum of New Mexico, Santa Fe; Capitol Arts Foundation of New Mexico, Santa Fe; the University of New Mexico Art Museum; the Center for Southwest Research at the University of New Mexico.
India (Institute for Development Studies, Jaipur; Center for Environmental Planning and Technology, Ahmedabad)
England (Dartington College of Art, Devon; Centre for Contemporary Art and the Natural World, Exeter; Falmouth University College, Cornwall;
University of Bath; Lancaster University)
Indonesia (Duta Wacana University, Yogyakarta, Java)
Across the United States and Canada
Articles published in a dozen Canadian, British, and American books and journals, including Water In the History of Photography, Encyclopedia of Water, Wiley Press and an interview with David Williams in Performance Research, London, England
Photographs and Poetry
Photographs and poetry published in ten Canadian and American journals including The New Quarterly: New Directions in Canadian Writing and Parnassus: Poetry in Review
Rainwater Harvesting Projects
Albuquerque Museum, Desert Fountain. Pueblo of Isleta Native American Community Center. University of New Mexico; Biology Museum, Jonson Gallery, and Student Union Building.
Performance Art Works
Ten Performance Art Pieces: Europe (London, Glasgow, Paris); Canada (Montreal, Toronto); United States (New York, Massachusetts, Alabama, New Mexico). 1976-1991
Essays about Irland's work
With images, included in the following books:
- 2010Art and Politics Now: Cultural Activism in a Time of Crisis. Susan Noyes Platt. Midmarch Arts Press, New York, NY.
- 2010The Ethics of Earth Art. Amanda Boetzkes. The University of Minnesota Press.
- 2010Land Art. Radius Books, Santa Fe, NM.
- 2010Art + Science. Stephen Wilson. Thames & Hudson
- 2010The Book of Images: Reflections on Symbols. Archive for Research in Archetypal Symbolism. Taschen.
2008Land Art, A Cultural Ecology Handbook. Edited by Max Andrews, Royal Society of Art, London
2007Weather Report: Art and Climate Change. Curated by Lucy Lippard. Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art, Boulder, Colorado.
2005Performing Nature; Explorations in Ecology and the Arts. Gabriella Giannachi and Nigel Stewert. Peter Lang Publisher, Oxford and Bern, Switzerland.
2004Ecological Aesthetics; Art in Environmental Design: Theory and Practice. Heike Strelow, Birkhauser - Publishers for Architecture, Basil, Berlin and Boston. Two versions - German, English.
2003Women Artists of the American West. Edited by Susan R. Ressler, McFarland and Company, North Carolina.
2002Ecovention; Current Art to Transform Ecologies. Sue Spaid. Co-published by The Contemporary Art Center (Cincinnati), Ecoartspace and greenmuseum.org.