Jackie Brookner started working with water in 1995, convinced it was an undervalued resource severely threatened by pollution, waste, and human-generated stresses. For a San Jose community center, she designed two filtration systems that treat rainwater runoff from the roof. One consists of a translucent amber glass and stainless steel rock filter in a slate planter. A map of the Coyote Creek watershed graces the filter’s surface and defines its function: preventing sudden flushes of unfiltered runoff from harming the nearby creek. Her award-winning design serves three goals: protecting waterways, preparing for drought/flood cycles induced by climate change, and connecting city residents to nature.
Without water, the universal solvent that circulates through and connects all living things, none of us could exist. The urgency to protect water and reveal its power and importance has fueled my ecological art practice for close to twenty years.
My work brings plant-based water remediation for parks, rivers, and wetlands together with habitat restoration, landscape sculpture, and active community collaboration. These projects demonstrate how the undervalued resources of stormwater and other polluted water can be reclaimed to create evocative public places where people can connect with the natural systems that support our lives.
Like any resilient ecosystem, my process is dynamic and adaptive to emerging conditions. I always begin with listening – to the place itself, how it feels and functions or could function ecologically and socially, to its assets and needs. I listen to the people who will use the space, to local leaders and policy makers, and to the design, science, and social science collaborators. The web of relationships that can be gathered, both human and non-human, is revealed. Active citizen involvement is fostered throughout the entire life of the project to catalyze creativity and encourage sustained stewardship.
Artist’s website: www.jackiebrookner.com