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‘Water of Life’ exhibit expresses global issues

The water of life is not necessarily in liquid form.

But Nigerian-born artist Bright Ugochukwu Eke uses water — in different forms — as an underlying theme in his art to express greater environmental and global ideas.

Eke is the Hanes Art Center’s newest visiting artist-in-residence, and he kicks off the FedEx Global Education Center’s exhibit “The Water of Life: Artistic Expressions” with a lecture tonight about water as a medium, idea and concept for art.

The lecture, held in the Hanes Art Center, will introduce “The Water of Life” at UNC, and Eke’s work is one of three parts of the exhibit.

Alongside Eke’s work will be two other pieces: freshman Caroline Orr’s original oil paintings and “Ensemble Australis: Iceblink,” a collaboration between music professors Allen Anderson and Brooks de Wetter-Smith.

The exhibit is part of the campus-wide, two-year water theme aimed at exploring global issues surrounding the natural resource.

Eke lives in Los Angeles but has traveled to Chapel Hill to spend two weeks working with UNC students on creating a large installation piece for “The Water of Life.”

“Eke will also be meeting with Chapel Hill High School students in his time here, and will work with ceramics and recycled materials to draw on water and environmental issues,” said Cary Levine, a professor in the art department.

The installation, a collaboration between students and artist, will be revealed at the FedEx Center on March 21.

“The Water of Life” exhibit is hosted with support from the UNC Art Department, the African Studies Center, UNC Global and the Department of Music.

Eke draws on various aspects of his life and the world today in order to create his socially conscious art, said Carol Magee, an associate art professor.

He’s equally inspired by his home region of Mbaise, Nigeria, and his current city — the highly populated and densely polluted Los Angeles, Magee added.

Magee said she believes Eke can contribute an artist’s perspective as well as a Nigerian’s perspective to the exhibit and the UNC community.

“Eke is bringing a new perspective on the idea of water on our campus,” she said.

But Eke isn’t the only artist in Chapel Hill using water in a new, innovative way.

The “Ensemble Australis: Iceblink” is composed of music, images and video of Antarctica.

De Wetter-Smith, flutist in the ensemble, captured all of the stills and video of Antarctica that will be part of the presentation.

The visual effects were the result of several trips de Wetter-Smith took to the Antarctic.

The ensemble, conducted by Anderson and composed of 10 individual instruments, will play live classical music alongside the images.

“We are very much dependent on the water in the Antarctic, and the ice specifically is a huge complement that affects the entire world,” de Wetter-Smith said.

“I hope people will see that through our presentation, and through the exhibit as a whole.”

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