Meghann Riepenhoff (American, b. 1979) Waters of the Americas: US Geological Survey #410401112134801, Record Low Water Level, 4192’, Antelope Island Causeway A (Great Salt Lake, UT, 8.27.18), 2018 copy

Meghann Riepenhoff

Waters of the Americas, 2018

Sixteen Dynamic Cyanotypes

Overall, installed: approximately 76 x 96 inches

Presented by Yossi Milo Gallery

Meghann Riepenhoff’s series Waters of the Americas explores the impacts of human intervention on bodies of water across the United States, exposing the often invisible impacts of emissions, climate change, and shifting natural cycles. In 2018, Riepenhoff was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship for photography and, with its funding, initiated this new series to investigate, document, and collaborate with these bodies of water. Furthering her practice that centers cyanotype’s ability to depict the forms of nature and movements of bodies of water across the globe, Riepenhoff specifically engages American ecosystems and landscapes undergoing change created by human industry, society, and life.  

Waters of the Americas works have engaged events such as storm surges, pollutant runoff, and rising sea levels, and Riepenhoff highlights the dramatic changes each site has undergone. Working in Rochester, New York, Riepenhoff exposed cyanotypes in the confluence of the Genesee River and Lake Ontario, where Eastman Kodak’s emissions have long impacted local ecosystems. Work created there was included in Watershed, an exhibition at the University of Michigan Museum of Art that examined the complicated and ongoing relationship between Great Lakes communities and the waters of the region. Works in this series have also been created in the coastal waters of Miami Beach, often called “Ground Zero” for climate change, and in the Mashpee River in Massachusetts, with deluges from residual storms following Hurricane Ian. 

Waters of the Americas: US Geological Survey #410401112134801, Record Low Water Level, 4192’, Antelope Island Causeway B (Great Salt Lake, UT, 8.28.18) (2018) was created in Utah’s famed Great Salt Lake at a time of record low water levels. The Great Salt Lake’s recent fluctuations are indicative of newly changing weather patterns, and alternating periods of drought and plenty have made it a site of concern. The lake hit consistent record lows, and, in 2018, Riepenhoff memorialized that time in a sixteen-print array of cyanotypes showing the vitality and movement still seen at water’s edge. Riepenhoff’s Waters of the Americas series depicts the microcosms of each site’s conditions, showing audiences individual instances at each site set against a backdrop of changes visible in nature worldwide. 

On Riepenhoff’s Practice 

Meghann Riepenhoff’s practice is founded on the interaction of natural sources of water with the raw components of photography through a combination of subject and process. By immersing large-scale cyanotypes directly into the landscape, Riepenhoff shows both the movements and circumstances of each source of water, depicting individual moments within a timeline of change. Each of the artist’s series makes evident the interconnected nature of the environment and the importance of humanity’s place within it. In her series Littoral Drift, Ecotone, and Ice, Riepenhoff imprints the gestures of waves, rain, and frozen water on her works, which together show the mutability and power of water in its varying forms. Waters of the Americas makes a specific mission of engaging with bodies of water in flux, showing the extremity in their short-term condition within the context of the continually shifting natural world and the geologic timeline. A focus on a specific history motivates her series Adaptive Radiation, which examines the waters and beaches of the Marshall Islands, highlighting the legacies of nuclear testing that are still written into the landscape of the region. In this way, Riepenhoff finds moments of transcendence within the passage of time, embracing impermanence as a central driver of her practice. 

Meghann Riepenhoff (American, b. 1979) Waters of the Americas: US Geological Survey #410401112134801, Record Low Water Level, 4192’, Antelope Island Causeway A (Great Salt Lake, UT, 8.27.18), 2018 Sixteen Dynamic Cyanotypes Dimensions, each element: approximately 19″ x 24″ (48.5 x 61 cm) Overall, installed: approximately 76″ x 96″ (193 x 245 cm) Unique. © Meghann Riepenhoff, Courtesy Yossi Milo, New York