Bobbe Besold, a founder of the community engagement project Rivers Run Through Us, has made water a centerpiece of her art and activism.
In an artist statement, Bobbe Besold, who has concentrated on water in her art practice and activism for the past twenty-five years, provides a harrowing anecdote.
“Two-thirds of the Earth’s surface is water, yet less than one-half of one percent is fresh water,” she writes, “and part of that fresh water is locked up in glaciers and ice, now melting into the sea.”
Besold, a Santa Fe–based artist, creative catalyst and community collaborator, brings awareness to New Mexico’s watershed, water, and drought conditions through photography, painting, film, performance, and writing.
She has installed public art pieces throughout Northern New Mexico. Watershed (2010-12)—which contains meticulously rendered nature-themed relief murals depicting New Mexico waterways, wildlife, and sea life (because all rivers run to the sea)—won a 2013 project of the year award from the American Council of Engineering Companies New Mexico.
In 2010, Besold, Valerie Martinez, and Dominique Mazeaud created Rivers Run Through Us, which uses art to inspire, educate, and encourage community action about the Santa Fe river and watershed. Two years later, they walked fifty-four miles along the Santa Fe River, which, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council, provides around 40 percent of the city’s water supply.
Over a five-day excursion, they met with community members and gathered water samples. Ten years later, the artists returned to the river, and in a ceremony gave the water back to the thirsty waterway, which, depending on the season, is so low that one can effortlessly walk across.
“My first political art was done in the seventh grade when I did a large painting and a report about the sand mines of Long Island that swallowed the skating pond and the forest in my neighborhood,” Besold writes. “From that time on, my art and work has never strayed far from environmental and social concerns.”
Santa Fe, New Mexico | bobbebesold.com | riversrunthroughus.org | @bobbebird