- Oil on Canvas
- 72″ x 24″ diptych
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My neighbor wrote a play about water and the settlements in Kansas beginning with the Mennonite immigrant farmers. They began arriving in the later part of the 19th century with seed of hard, red wheat. A generation or two later the underground water in an aquifer known as The Ogallala was revealed. The play’s first readings offered inspiration as this painting developed. In Homer’s Greek tale, The Odyssey, the hero, Odysseus, plugged his sailors’ ears with wax and had himself tied to the ship’s mast so he could hear the deadly Siren’s song. That tale also inspired this work. The lure of the “Ogallala Siren” is so powerful that the question of protecting the resource is often ignored. Water rights policy, which does not account for scarcity, has handicapped necessary action regarding water extraction. In the painting, the Siren is presenting you with an empty glass of water while holding a cheeseburger on a plate of golden corn. Aquifer water is used to grow corn in country suited to prairie or dry land farming. The corn grown in the Mid-west today, will likely become bio-fuel or will be fed to beef cattle, who have difficulty digesting it. The Siren has a moon nimbus behind her head, adding to her mythical and spiritual appearance, while a seemingly endless supply of water flows from her robes. Crop circles extend to the Flint Hill in the background. The Hills are the last remaining Tallgrass Prairie because the flint rock made tilling impractical for farming. As the ladder of rivers, which once provided for prolific and varied life on the plains, dry up, we have learned much more about the tenuous nature of the aquifer and its value. Unfortunately, that hasn’t led to sound water policy.
A Water Story: In 1985 my family attended a Wilderness Society Camp in and around Rocky Mountain National Park. I signed up for the water program, which began in the tundra and followed water down the mountain to Estes Park, CO’s water treatment plant. During the program we were asked how much water we used in a day. Only two or 5% of folks in the group of 20 could answer. One lived in northern California and carried in his water to a secluded forest home. The other was an eastern CO farmer who used more water in a day than the city of Estes Park used in a year.
Julene Bair’s book about the Ogallala Aquifer is titled “The Ogallala Road”. Publisher, Viking Penguin Press