Artist Katrina Moorhead’s installation entitled Barometer features a carved floatable pumice boulder that is partially laid in a pattern with copper leaf, and constitutes a manner of ‘barometer’. Moorhead’s project was initially inspired by medieval ‘hunger stones’ – hydrological features, which are large, usually unseen rocks on the floor and banks of the River Elbe in the Czech Republic and Germany. These rocks only appear when the water recedes in times of extreme drought and, thus, famine. Witnessed in summer 2018 for the first time in 400 years, the stones are inscribed by unfortunate famine victims from centuries ago with ominous messages such as “If you see me, weep” and “When this stone sinks, life will become more colorful again.” These normally concealed markers are simultaneously poetic and beautiful, and haunting and chilling.
Moorhead’s installation is the inverse of these hunger stones. Simple in appearance, a boulder embellished with a copper pattern, Barometer resembles a buoy that has the potential to rise up and down with changing water levels. The inlaid copper will oxidize and change color over time, creating a patina of verdigris (green oxidation). Operating in close proximity to the urban bayou, it is a harbinger of the complicated perception of the rising and falling water in teetering times, as it conceptually floats between natural and artificial worlds – an atmospheric and emotional barometer, of sorts.
Katrina Moorhead’s installations, objects and drawings are frequently informed by her interest in sourcing or creating instances in which human sentiments are seemingly conflated with scientific facts, places where our mutable emotions overlay onto ‘fixed’ science. The works employ a wide variety of materials and objects, which when brought together continue to refer to known forms but simultaneously offer new, often poetic, associations.
Born in Northern Ireland, Moorhead received her BA and MFA from Edinburgh College of Art, Scotland. Moorhead has been awarded numerous residencies including fellowships at the Core Program at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston and the MacDowell Colony, also the International Artist-In-Residence at Artpace, San Antonio, and SIM, Reykjavik. Her work has been exhibited widely in solo and group exhibitions in New York, Houston, Seattle, Tokyo, London, Glasgow, Zurich, and more. In 2005 her work was included in an exhibition titled The Nature of Things as Northern Ireland’s inaugural participation at the 51st Venice Biennale, and in the International Incheon Women Artists’ Biennale (2009). Other exhibitions include Sparkle, 2006, Gallery Side 2, Tokyo, A Thing Called Early Blur, (solo) 2007, Blaffer Museum, Houston, The Luxury of Dirt, 2011, Galerie Bob van Orsouw, Zurich, Switzerland, and seapinksea, (solo) 2019, Inman Gallery, Houston.
Moorhead’s work has been written about in various books and catalogues, as well as periodicals including Art in America, Artforum and Sculpture magazine. She has been the recipient of awards that include the 2007 Texas Prize from Arthouse, Austin, an Artadia Award in 2008, and the Joan Mitchell Foundation Award for Painters and Sculptors. Her work is included in many institutional and private collections.