Like Water From a Rock

Opening Date: October 6, 2023

Closing Date: November 18, 2023

Reception: October 6, 6:00 – 9:00 pm

Exhibition: Like Water From a Rock

Artist: Donna Zarbin-Byrne


Venue: Arts Fort Worth

Fort Worth Community Arts Center

1300 Gendy Street, Fort Worth, Texas 76107


Like Water from a Rock celebrates the landscape as a living force, connecting material and exterior sites with an internal process. Working en plein air, I make gestural drawings with wire, take molds of mountain surfaces, and collect natural materials. Paper and fabric are stretched like skin over wire skeletons, transmuting pictorial views into new material stories.


While creating this work, extreme weather conditions and wildfires in Texas and Maui impacted me deeply. Maui was burning and its most historic city, Lahaina was destroyed. As a result, the work has intertwined beauty with destruction and grief with hope. As natural cycles of life and death have accelerated into human tragedy, creating this work has become a physical expression of lament where I imagine against grief.


The title, Like Water from a Rock, references the biblical account of the Israelites miraculously receiving water from a rock in the wilderness. Water serves as a poetic parenthesis around the two landscapes, imagining the ocean over time and space in geologic history, and quenching the thirst of the land and people.


My process follows ecosystems and patterns found in nature. I apply patinas to dry plants to re-articulate death into life. Rusting steel releases earth tones of iron and orange, while I use fire and water to coax verdigris out of bronze and copper. Molten bronze spills into water-like patterns. Direct castings of organic materials turn fragile plants into the strength of bronze.


My focus has shifted from the intimate space of my backyard garden to a larger landscape view, specifically the West Maui Mountains and the Chihuahuan desert in Texas. These places are personally significant to me and have become a source of reflection and comfort during a time of environmental and cultural crisis.


For this exhibition, I collaborated with writers in Hawaii and Texas* including Sasha Pimentel, who wrote poetry specifically for this project. The immersive installation includes augmented reality experiences featuring poetry in virtual space. Our works respond to the dualities of nature, encapsulating harshness and beauty. Her writing and my sculpture were created in reciprocity, intertwining language and form.