Sheldon Museum of Art




Date of this Version



Sheldon Memorial Art Gallery, 2007-2008


All images are copyright by the original artists. Publication copyright 2008 The Regents of the University of Nebraska


Symbolizing purity, sustenance, tranquility, power, movement, and continuity, water is a source of life as well as destruction and death. Its surface serves as a metaphor for self-reflection and contemplation. It flows over cultural and physical boundaries. Water is indispensable to human survival, yet many take it for granted. We pollute it, misuse it, and fight over it. It is easily accessible to some while nearly out of reach to others. Flow explores the theme of water as subject and symbol, natural wonder, recreational resource, and environmental concern.

Artists with an affinity toward nature, especially landscape painters, chose water as a primary subject because of its reflective beauty and emotive qualities. Those close to the land also wish to protect it, and to do so some have turned to documentary imagery. Water was a central theme of the Provincetown, Massachusetts, painters and the San Francisco Bay Area figurative artists. American Impressionists gravitated toward water's abstract, absorbing quality.

Water and exceptional light drew artist and art teacher Charles Hawthorne to Cape Cod, where he helped established an artist colony and persuaded Ross Moffett to join their circle. Although Moffett studied in Chicago and New York, he was born on an Iowa farm, and could identifY with the Portuguese fishermen in the west end of Provincetown. "I regarded this group as proletarian," he wrote, "at least as a working class, and .. .! thought, not too difficult to connect them with farmers .... " Red Dory exemplifies Moffett's attempt to depict the fishermen and their environment as inseparable, organic elements. His use of patterning, negative space, color, and form reflects his interest in modernist ideas as well as life on the water.