Printmaker Amanda Maciuba is an artist shaped by water. Hailing from Buffalo, New York, for most of her life looking at water meant looking west to the behemoth Lake Erie. She says it still feels odd to go to a city like Chicago, where “the water is on the wrong side.”
After living a childhood anchored by the Great Lakes, she moved to the Great Plains, land of underground aquifers and rivers “that you can’t even swim in,” as Maciuba puts it. This influenced her art, which she says investigates issues like time, place, and a location’s environmental history.
Amanda now lives in Massachusetts, but she recently completed a stint as an artist in residence at the Lawrence Arts Center in northeast Kansas. She earned her MFA in printmaking at the University of Iowa. Four years before she arrived in Iowa City the town flooded so severely that recovery continued by the time she got there. The lingering effects of the disaster shed new light on Amanda’s perceptions of how environment and place interact.
The flood inspired motifs in Amanda’s art that she still employs, namely Noah’s Ark, which she sees as “a reminder of the futility of building despite climate change”: no matter what man builds, it will always be surpassed by the environmental forces which are beyond his control.
After moving to Kansas, Amanda became interested in aquifers and irrigation, especially the circular patterns caused by center pivot irrigation systems. The geometry of the circles, as well as their environmental implications on aquifer drainage and water conservation, inspired Maciuba to include them in her art. Both circular plots and Noah’s Ark frequently appear in her works, which she makes using a variety of printmaking techniques such as letterpress, intaglio, silkscreen, and lithography.
Recently, Maciuba ventured out to the Baker Wetlands south of Lawrence. For years local debate erupted when it was revealed that the wetlands would fall in the projected path of the South Lawrence Trafficway. A compromise was struck – in order to complete the project and avoid destroying the wetlands, construction crews would add 380 acres of Wetlands adjacent to the existing site to make up for any territory lost to the highway.
When Maciuba visited the new, man-made wetlands site, she found it a “nude and strange landscape.” Such places raise questions about the human ability to control – much less replace – nature and water.
These questions also remind her of the Iowa City flood, which occurred due to necessary discharges from a man-made dam. While others might not be drawn to “nude and strange” landscapes, these themes compelled Maciuba to use her artwork to explore the question of how humans interact with nature.
To learn more about how water shapes human existence and vice versa, visit the Water/Ways Smithsonian Institution traveling exhibition and its partner exhibitions.
To learn more about Amanda Maciuba’s art, visit her website or see her work as part of Memory of Water: an Interdisciplinary Arts-Based Research Project on exhibit at Albrecht -Kemper Museum of Art on display from December 1, 2017 – March 18, 2018.