Peninsula artists Lisa Hutton, Scott Polach and Eva Struble are among the dozen whose work is on display now until Nov. 29 at the Central Library, at 330 Park Blvd.
In the exhibit, freelance curator Susan Myrland and Richard Crawford, supervisor of special collections at the San Diego Public Library, tell the story of a real-life San Diego historical rainmaker, Charles Hatfield.
The city was in a drought around the time of the 1915 Panama-California Exposition in Balboa Park. City leaders were so desperate they voted to pay so-called rainmaker Charles Hatfield to release his “secret formula” into the atmosphere. Whether as a result —or by coincidence — San Diego was deluged, with it raining more than 30 inches in less than two months.
Myrland used “Hatfield’s Flood” as the starting point for the library show which includes water-related works by a dozen artists including Adam Belt, Roman de Salvo, Michael Field, Margaret Noble, Polach, Struble, Jim Wilsterman, Hutton and others.
Hutton, an interdisciplinary artist and educator whose art has been exhibited nationally and internationally, currently teaches at Mesa Community College and Cal State San Marcos
Her work exhibited in Rainmaker is from a series of drawings on the topic of climate change and obviousness. The resulting drawings, she noted, are unlikely composites of severe weather in combination with scenic computer wallpapers.
“As severe climate events become more common, mass media permit the audience to witness severe weather on a daily basis — however, such observation is abstract and impersonal,” said Hutton. “At the same time, the computer wallpapers provide an impersonal fantasy landscape for the indoor worker. By combining the two forms, I intend to draw attention to the disconnection between our comfortable existence and a warming climate.”
Myrland said she was invited by Kara West, library arts and culture exhibitions manager, to submit a proposal for the Central Library Art Gallery. She noted the library periodically reaches out to guest curators as a way to connect with different forms of creativity in the community.
“The goal is to create a space where curators can share ideas, in addition to artists showing their work,” said Myrland, noting she “happened to see” a display about Hatfield in the library’s Special Collections section and “realized we were coming up on the centennial of the (Hatfield) flood.
“So I proposed to use that event — one of the worst disasters in San Diego's history — to examine water, drought and climate change through 12 contemporary artists.”
Myrland said Hutton was one of the first two she approached about exhibiting their work in Rainmaker.
“Lisa's drawings are from a series she calls ‘climate change meets obliviousness,’ ”said Myrland. “I picked two where animals are threatened by massive storms, unable to comprehend what humans are doing to the planet.”
The curator said she chose Struble's painting, "Navy Yard," for the exhibit “because it shows the Brooklyn Navy Yard at a time when it was abandoned and its future was uncertain”
San Diego's economy is so closely tied to the Navy — you can see the shipyards from the library. What would our city be like if the military wasn't here?”
“Some of the themes in Rainmaker are resilience, interconnectedness, the power of belief and the boundaries between science and magic,” said Myrland adding, “The show opens with photos of Hatfield and the flood, and includes his barometer, measuring tools, a set of scales and his business card.”
Could Hatfield really have triggered a storm using such small amounts of chemicals?, asks Myrland.
Visit “Rainmaker” and see what you think.