Artist

The Cycle of Water

New York City artist Mary Mattingly offers a free public art installation symbolizing water, glaciers and the history of ceramics at the former Kalispell Malting & Brewing Co.

By Maggie Dresser
Artist Mary Mattingly sits among “Limnal Lacrimosa” a free public art project she created out of bowls, bottles and other vessels which collect water leaking through the roof of the old building at 5 6th Avenue West in Kalispell on August 3, 2021. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

Growing up in a rural town in Massachusetts where the water was polluted, artist Mary Mattingly remembers her family constantly figuring out ways to find safe drinking water, and she has distinct memories of her flooded basement every spring.

Mattingly has been fascinated with water since she was a kid, and after moving to New York City in 2001, she became captivated by the waterways in the area and has since incorporated water into much of her art.

For three years, Mattingly worked on a water pod project, which functioned similar to a public park with a self-sufficient habitat, which she lived on. Years later, she created a water-based project called Swale, where she built gardens on a floating 140-by-30-foot barge on the Bronx River to bring awareness to local food systems and water.

“I’ve been thinking about the water forever,” Mattingly said.

“Limnal Lacrimosa” a free public art project composed of bowls, bottles and other vessels collecting water leaking through the roof of the old building at 5 6th Avenue West in Kalispell on August 3, 2021. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

Now in Kalispell, Mattingly is working on a new water project in the former Kalispell Malting & Brewing Co. beer cellar on Sixth Avenue West.

Mattingly visited the property last year when the building’s owner asked her if she would be interested in proposing an art installation for the space.

“The roof was falling in and rain drops were falling through the roof,” Mattingly said. “There was snowmelt and shafts of light … It was pretty magical. It was freezing cold and unlike anything I’d seen before.”

“Limnal Lacrimosa,” meaning lakes of tears, is a free art installation using snowmelt and rainwater to symbolize the cycle of water.

The cycle begins on the top floor of the historic building in a tub, which drips down to the first floor through 240 feet of irrigation lines falling into several of the 173 ceramic pieces along with other types of vessels to create a rain-like sound. The vessels fill and the water drains through the floor and is pumped back into the tub where the cycle repeats itself.

Water drips into two rooms in the former brewery, one room focusing on the perspective of sound and the other room emphasizing light reflection. Mattingly replaced broken windows with colorful Plexiglas to create a cathedral-like ambience.

“Limnal Lacrimosa” a free public art project composed of bowls, bottles and other vessels collecting water leaking through the roof of the old building at 5 6th Avenue West in Kalispell on August 3, 2021. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

The art installation also represents the history of ceramics, particularly in the brewing industry. Mattingly says ceramic pieces were used in different fermenting processes, and some of the original vessels from the former brewery were left behind in the building.

Glacier National Park’s proximity to the space also inspired Mattingly’s vision, which acknowledges climate change and a shifting landscape.

“Ecology and art really drive me and I try to find ways to combine them and make spaces or platforms that I think people can come together under,” Mattingly said. “I hope some of my art can make people think differently.”

Mattingly plans to evolve the space over time, adding more plants in the space, and she will invite musicians to perform amongst the falling droplets.

“Limnal Lacrimosa” a free public art project composed of bowls, bottles and other vessels collecting water leaking through the roof of the old building at 5 6th Avenue West in Kalispell on August 3, 2021. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

With a year to work exclusively on “Limnal Lacrimosa,” Mattingly is grateful to focus much of her energy on one project in a new place.

“It’s a rare thing in an artist’s life to have a dedicated amount of time to focus on one thing,” Mattingly said. “I have found myself working on different projects in different places and you’re not really able to step back. Personally, this is a really special time and opportunity to focus on craft and evolution of space and an idea.”

“Limnal Lacrimosa” is free and open by appointment at 5 Sixth Ave. W. in downtown Kalispell. Eventually, it will be open during the evenings on the weekends without an appointment.

To schedule an appointment, visit www.limnal-lacrimosa.com. For more information about the artist, visit www.marymattingly.com.

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