Water exhibit cascades VA MOCA gallery

The Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) is an accredited, non-collecting contemporary art museum at the Oceanfront. Virginia MOCA seeks to raise conservation consciousness in Hampton Roads by featuring two environmentally focused exhibitions: ‘Maya Lin: A Study of Water’ and ‘Open (C)all: What is Missing’.

Virginia MOCA deputy director of institutional advancement and VWU ’00 alumnus, Homer Babbitt, shares about his passion of working at VA MOCA and their mission. “At Virginia MOCA, part of our mission is we’re locally relevant and nationally resonant. My favorite part about working here, and why I just love this mission so much is that we were not just an art museum. We’re a community center, and we use art to create community conversation on topics that are relevant to our area,” said Babbitt.

Maya Lin’s environmentally-focused artistic work looks at water in many forms and patterns, including rivers and rising tides, icebergs and the decline of their melting poses. Her artwork representations of water in various media embodies sustainability through using recycled and reused materials. 

The featured works are composed of  water droplets made of glass, icebergs made of plaster, riverways made of steel pins and waves made of wood. The ‘Silver Chesapeake’ (2009) featured in the collection consists of Lin’s recycled silver. Each piece highlights the artistic forms of global and regional waterscapes across time that urges practices for ecological balance. The implications of water highlighted in the exhibition depicts its necessity, accessibility, scarcity, and abundance.

Babbitt added, “She has gone on to do so much work raising awareness around the environment and using her art to create those conversations and keep people talking about it. The other thing is, humans, we’re very visual creatures. She uses art to take these really complex ideas and simplify them.”

“Her pieces take a complicated idea and put it into a visual form that you can just very quickly understand,” said Babbitt.

After viewing ‘Maya Lin: A Study of Water,’ guests can engage in the ‘ART Lab’ that is an interactive gallery space for all ages to enjoy designed by the education team at Virginia MOCA. ‘ART Lab’ invites everyone to explore techniques that Maya Lin practiced in creating her artwork pieces. It serves as an educational space to learn about local conservation programs and environmental concepts.

Truly Matthews, assistant director of education and engagement at Virginia MOCA, shares about the development of ART Lab and the purpose that it serves as an exhibition space. “Art Lab is our education gallery space where we take the main themes in the big ideas from our current exhibitions and break them down. It is basically interpretation and hands-on,” said Matthews.

“We always have an art making component, so something hands-on. Thinking about Maya Lin, environmental messages are really important to her, but so is the beauty and form and pattern of water itself. Like the aesthetic qualities. We always have some kind of artist process material and sneak peek behind the scenes piece.”

At the end of the guest’s visit is ‘Open (C)all: What is Missing’, created by Maya Lin, is a community gallery in VA MOCA that invited Hampton Roads artists of all ages for environmentally focused submissions. The exhibition combines ecological themes that bring attention to biodiversity and habitat loss with stories of conservation and hope. It uniquely revolves around personal memories of each artist remembering a time when a species or habitat was more abundant that has now disappeared or diminished.

Babbitt shared his hope of what visitors takeaway with them after viewing the exhibition. “The Chesapeake Bay marble [artwork], it’s something like 23,000 marbles. If you think that each marble is important, right, then one marble missing would look like there’s a hole in the Bay. Each of our actions and each person is important to keep that in mind,” said Babbitt.

‘Maya Lin: A Study of Water’ and ‘Open (C)all: What is Missing’ exhibitions run from April 21 to Sept. 4. The museum hours are 10 a.m. – 8 p.m. on Thursday and 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. from Friday to Sunday. Admission is free for everyone to visit the exhibitions by booking in advance to visit Virginia MOCA. Get your ticket on www.virginiamoca.org/tickets to immerse in environmental awareness artwork and conversations in the Hampton Roads community.

by Tiffany Warren