Fredericka Foster

Watch "Like a Circle in Water," a Tricycle Original Short on Fredericka Foster's work.

I grew up in Seattle—a city of water blanketed by humidity from rain, forests, lakes, and Puget Sound. I have always loved abstract art, and I wanted to paint evocative subject matter that could carry emotion and thought. Water was my solution. Painted without a horizon, it was constantly changing, rich with meaning, and always abstract.

I completed my first water series in the 1970s, using water-soluble media, and returned to this subject, then using oil paint, in the 1990s.

Each water painting begins with a photograph. I travel to bodies of water ranging from the deep fjords of Norway to the industrialized Hudson River, choosing images that stimulate my imagination and that showcase the complexity of water as it plays with light, wind, and the earth beneath it. These photos are models for, but not dictators of, the painting process. My vision changes even as I seek to get the image down, and I experiment with ways to mix and layer pigments in order to trap the evanescent nature of the experience.

Painting water is intimately coupled with my Buddhist studies with Gelek Rinpoche [founder of the Tibetan Buddhist center Jewel Heart] and my meditation practice. In painting, as in any art, we can escape the prison of our minds and connect with what transcends ordinary perceptions. And just as a body of water stays still while a wave-form moves through it, consciousness remains stable despite the constant motion and flow of our thoughts.

Environmental Buddhism’s call to practice nonharming has inspired me to study water, and to do what I can to ameliorate the suffering that comes with the ingestion of polluted water.

Hydraulic fracking in particular is contaminating water supplies with toxic chemicals and retarding the development of alternative energy sources. Advertised as a “green industry,” fracking, a method for shale gas and oil extraction, is anything but, and its consequences have been insufficiently studied because of the political sway of the oil and gas industry. I hope that my art helps to support people and institutions committed to being stewards of water.

—Fredericka Foster

Images 1 & 3: Andrew Gladstone
Image 2: Fjord III, 2013, by Fredericka Foster. Oil on canvas. 

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tiffjoy's picture

Thank you so much, Fredericka! I'm so happy to see Tricycle publish your work as well as your commentary on fracking. It is obvious the devastation that has happened due to fracking. Wildlife and domesticated farm animals have been contaminated and turned ill due to this method. These grounds where they frack will be uninhabitable. These corporations offer false money packages and leave these farmers will destroyed lands. It's unjust and I agree that we need to appreciate our water. Mother Nature needs our support and care. Renewable energy is definitely the cleanest alternative that we need to invest in.

melcher's picture

We are like drug addicts debating whether the particular way we get our drug is the source of the imbalance in our lives, not the fact that our economy is based on consuming the earth. It's like pursuing the 'war on drugs' by going after Columbian farmers. The answers come down ultimately to issues of our own personal behavior and attitudes toward each other, toward our world, and toward the things we think we need to make us happy.

cmassinople's picture

Hydraulic fracking has been in use for decades and is today safer than ever. If some older wells are non-compliant, they should be made compliant or shutdown. My position on this is simple in that that I also like breathing clean air and know that carbon fuel pollution is being cut in half by using natural gas, the primary resultant fuel from fracking. I would think environmental groups would be on the side of increased natural gas extraction and use ( some are ), but for others, the Sierra Club in particular have used fracking as a rallying issue based on misinformation to increase membership. We all like and need clean water, Fredericka, but lets understand how damaging to the earth global warming is and take important and significant steps to slow and reverse it.