From the moment we met Blue McRight, everything about her reminded us of water. From her royal blue eyes to her navy cardigan to her name, the legacy that McRight has spent years creating is one that reflects the issues behind California’s water struggles and the relation between water and knowledge.
McRight’s fascination with water stems from a childhood interest in environmental issues. It inspired her idea for her COLA exhibit, a piece titled Font. “It’s an installation of almost a thousand used books, that all- either the author or the text spine- relate to water,” said McRight. The books range from The Deep End of the Ocean to a historical novel written by Sarah Waters.
Every year, the City of Los Angeles commissions outstanding artists to create a piece of work to be featured at the Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery in Barnsdall Art Park. McRight, whose husband won in 2004, was among the winning artists in 2015. The artists, who must be active for more than fifteen years to apply, are granted $10,000 and spend a year working on their art. This summer, the exhibits are up from May 15th to July 3rd.
With the funding provided by COLA, McRight was able to buy almost a thousand used books from Los Angeles libraries. “I use everything that’s used, because I like that all the objects have their own history and their own past experience,” she said.
“There’s all these layers that come into play,” said McRight, as she showed us her piece and described its significance. Looking at Font from afar, it’s easy to see how it might resemble a painting. The bookcase is lined with countless blue, green, white, black, and gray books. “I decided that I would not let people take the books down and open them, because I wanted the contents to remain unseen and be more mysterious,” she said.
Attached to certain books are hoses and faucets that are coiled intricately around the floor. “A metaphor that works for me about this is the circulation of knowledge and water,” said McRight.
McRight noted that she did not become a COLA fellow on her first try. Even so, her passion for art has kept her persistent. “I think [the arts are] vitally important. In the time that I’ve lived here, I’ve seen it go from just the Museum of Contemporary Art just barely being open to now Los Angeles is one of the centers in the world for contemporary art,” she said.
McRight advised artists considering applying for the fellowship to follow instructions carefully, have a strong vision, and write clearly.
McRight left us with one last piece of advice. “The more you look, the more will be revealed,” she said with a wry smile.