a newspaper man adjusts his pen

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

A public memorial to aquatic life

A new art exhibit could be likened to a traveling fish funeral.

The show features the works of 90 artists from the Pittsburgh and Morgantown, W.Va., regions who each painted one species of aquatic life killed in a widespread 2009 fish kill along a stream that straddles the Pennsylvania and West Virginia border.

And the exhibit, "Reflections: Homage to Dunkard Creek" is arriving next week at California University of Pennsylvania.

The portraits also feature crayfish, mussels and insects that were placed on the West Virginia Department of Natural Resources list of populations that dropped significantly during the pollution.

I'm not going to get into the debate here over to which environmental catastrophe caused the fish kill.

Cal U. is among nine sites that will exhibit the show sponsored by the Mountain Institute's Appalachia Program.

The university's office of academic affairs will host an opening reception from 5-8 p.m. Nov. 10 in Frich Hall. It will begin with a gallery talk by Ann Payne, of Morgantown, a member of the Guild of Natural Science Illustrators and the artist who conceived and organized the project.

Curator for the exhibition on campus is Maggy Aston, assistant professor of art and design at Cal U. A work by Jordan Wong, a student of Aston’s, is included in the exhibition. His piece depicts the johnny darter, Etheostoma nigrum, a bottom-feeding freshwater fish.

Through a collaboration with the university’s departments of art and design, biological and environmental sciences, and music, the paintings will be viewed in an aquarium-like environment that includes glass display cases holding specimens with a sound track of bird, frog and cricket calls. A large, collaborative mural depicts water, nature and industry in the Mon Valley.

The opening reception is free to the public. The exhibit will be on view from 8 a.m.-9 p.m., Mondays through Fridays through Dec. 8 in the lobby of Frich Hall.

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