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Like Water from a Rock

Updated: Nov 28, 2023

Works by Donna Zarbin-Byrne

On view October 6 November 18, 2023

Visit Fort Worth Gallery

Recently, my focus has shifted from the intimate space of my backyard garden to a larger landscape view, specifically the West Maui Mountains and the Chihuahuan desert in Texas. These places are personally significant to me and have become a source of reflection and comfort during a time of environmental and cultural crisis.

For this exhibition, I collaborated with writers in Hawaii and Texas* including Sasha Pimentel, who wrote poetry specifically for this project. Our works respond to the dualities of nature, encapsulating harshness and beauty. Her writing and my sculpture were created in reciprocity, intertwining language and form.

Like Water from a Rock celebrates the landscape as a living force, connecting material and exterior sites with an internal process. While creating this work, extreme weather conditions and wildfires in Texas and Maui impacted me deeply. Maui was burning and its most historic city, Lahaina was destroyed. As a result, the work has intertwined beauty with destruction and grief with hope. As natural cycles of life and death have accelerated into human tragedy, creating this work has become a physical expression of lament.

The title, Like Water from a Rock, references the biblical account of the Israelites miraculously receiving water from a rock in the wilderness. Water serves as a poetic parenthesis around the two landscapes, imagining the ocean over time and space in geologic history, and quenching the thirst of the land and people.

Working en plein air, I make gestural drawings with wire, take molds of mountain surfaces, and collect natural materials. Paper and fabric are stretched like skin over wire skeletons, transmuting pictorial views into new material stories.

My process follows ecosystems and patterns found in nature. I apply patinas to dry plants to re-articulate death into life. Rusting steel releases earth tones of iron and orange, while I use fire and water to coax verdigris out of bronze and copper. Molten bronze spills into water-like patterns. Direct castings of organic materials turn fragile plants into the strength of bronze.

Through my work, I imagine against grief, even as the parched desert can bloom overnight.

Artist Bio

Donna Zarbin-Byrne is an interdisciplinary artist based in Dallas, TX, and Maui, HI. Originally from Chicago, she earned her BFA and MFA from The University of Texas, San Antonio with a concentration in ceramic sculpture and pre-Columbian art history. She had a recent solo exhibition at Hawaii Pacific University, O’ahu, HI. She has exhibited her work nationally from The Jewish Museum, New York, NY to The Schaefer International Art Gallery, Maui, HI. Collections include the City of Houston Civic Arts Collection, and public art has been commissioned for the City of Evanston, IL, and San Antonio, TX. She has been honored to receive an Individual Artist Fellowship in Interdisciplinary Art through the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts and has been awarded grants and exhibitions through the Artist in Education program, Illinois Arts Council. Zarbin-Byrne co-founded Artisan Restoration International, which provides custom restoration and design services across the globe.

*Special thanks to Sasha Pimentel, author of For Want of Water and Other Poems, NEA fellow in poetry, Brandy Nālani McDougal, state poet laureate, Hawai’i for the use of the poem Pō, Emily Thiroux Threatt for contributions of Haiku poetry, and Carl Yoshihara for aerial photographs.

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