Interview - Healing Waters Art Show by Selva Ozelli

Healing Waters - Selva Ozelli
Healing Waters - Selva Ozelli.

1.  What inspired your Healing Waters Art Show at the Havre de Grace Maritime Museum and Environmental Center? 

My series Healing Waters was born out of my desire to prepare an art show that focused on rehabilitating the treasured waters and sea of Chesapeake Bay for the Havre de Grace Maritime Museum and Environmental Center.

Havre de Grace Maritime Museum and Environmental Center is located in Havre de Grace, Harford County, Maryland. It is situated at the mouth of the Susquehanna River and the head of Chesapeake Bay -- the largest estuary in the United States – which outlets into the Atlantic Ocean.   

The Chesapeake Bay is a National Treasure. Its 64,000-square-mile watershed encompasses one of the most economically significant regions of the United States. It is protected by the landmark Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement (adopted in 2014, amended in 2020) that calls for, among other things, conservation and restoration of the treasured water, sea, and landscapes with participation from six states - New York, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, Virginia, and the District of Columbia.

With this art show, I wanted to draw attention to the conservation efforts of these states of Chesapeake Bay. 

2. What is your focus in your Healing Waters art show?

Healing Waters - Selva Ozelli.
Healing Waters - Selva Ozelli.

In my Healing Waters series art show, the focus of my paintings is the Darter Fish, which live in highly oxygenated fresh waters. Darter fish is the only animal unique to Maryland. It was discovered in 1912 in Swan Creek near Havre de Grace by two biologists.  Unfortunately, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service declared the Darter Fish an endangered species.  

Over the past 200 years, wetlands have been drained to make way for farmland or infrastructure development. Roughly 35 percent of all wetlands globally disappeared between 1970 and 2015, and the loss rate has been accelerating since 2000. Depending on the amount of climate-related sea level rise, some 20 to 90 percent of current coastal wetlands could be gone by the end of the century, according to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

Wetlands estuaries and river deltas have suffered more biodiversity loss than other land and marine ecosystems and act as an early warning – a canary in the coalmine -- that all is not well, from rising sea levels to invasive species, to climate exchange, excess water pollution from fertilizing lawns, gardens, farms, exhaust from automobiles, wastewater, septic systems, and stormwater runoff. The Darter Fish is the canary in the coalmine, alerting us that our waters are polluted.

My hope is that we clean the Chesapeake Bay so the Darter Fish, which got its name for its tendency to move between spots in short bursts of motion — in “darts”—  can dart around in the waters of Chesapeake Bay again.  Therefore, I painted them as energetic golden darts in my paintings. 

3. Why are you concerned about Chesapeake Bay or the environment in general?

Healing Waters - Selva Ozelli.
Healing Waters - Selva Ozelli.

Industrial growth, technological advancement, and globalization have boosted the world’s economy but depleted the earth’s resources. The inception of industrialization fueled with hydrocarbon energy created the highest levels of CO2 pollution, which causes environmental calamities such as storms, hurricanes, drought, and wildfires, which cause deforestation and loss of biodiversity, giving us a glimpse at the downside of industrial growth.

These natural calamities caused by climate change show us how the environment has been side-lined and deemed a byproduct given polluter companies' vast economic power, which funnel abundant transnational lobbying payments to politicians to erode environmental laws/tax policies of countries.

In April of this year, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) agreed to a lawsuit filed in 2020 by Maryland, Virginia, Delaware, and the District of Columbia that stated Pennsylvania must reduce its disproportionate impact in polluting the Chesapeake Bay.   This lawsuit was settled in July, requiring the EPA to enforce provisions of the Clean Water Act by demanding Pennsylvania to fully develop a plan to meet pollution reduction goals for the Bay.  

I am an attorney, CPA, artist, and human living in this wonderfully beautiful world.  As an attorney, I have published-- in tax treatises and tax publications-- several first-of-its-kind legal analyses that globally altered the transnational adjudication and disclosure of (1) corporate polluting activity, (2) lobbying payments made to foreign government officials to change environmental laws/tax policies of countries. For more about this, click here.

As an artist, I wanted to celebrate justice prevailing to protect the environment in the Chesapeake Bay with my Healing Waters art show, which I painted as wildfires in Canada made the air in New York unbreathable and the unprecedented Hudson Valley storms devastated the area. My paintings were drenched in storms a few times until they made it to the Havre de Grace Maritime Museum and Environmental Center. This art show will be part of Climate Week New York, Florida Climate Week, and the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP28) as part of the Global Resilience Partnership Platform.

Healing Waters - Selva Ozelli.
Healing Waters - Selva Ozelli.

Recently, young environmental activists in Montana won a landmark climate change lawsuit against the state when a judge stated that the state was violating its constitution by promoting fossil fuel development without considering the impact on climate change. This landmark case will be the topic for my next art show for the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP28), which I will paint from September through November. 

All I can say is that I am thankful to all young environmental activists, teachers, authors, lawyers, judges, museum directors, curators, and artists who bring attention to keeping the world we live in livable for all beings. 

5. Will Healing Waters be digitally exhibited at other venues?

Healing Waters will be on exhibit at Climate Week New York, Florida Climate Week as part of my seven art show exhibitions by three museums. 

Healing Waters at Havre de Grace Maritime Museum and Environmental Center Havre de Grace, MD:

Orcas & Reefs at Whaling Museum Cold Spring Harbor, NY:

Love Someday & Reef Dwellers series at CUHK Jockey Club Museum of Climate Change, Hong Kong, China:

Healing Waters will be on exhibition at the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP28) along with my Orcas & Reefs art show and a new series I will prepare on youth technology and climate for the Global Resilience Partnership platform.

Healing Waters will also be on exhibit at World Wetlands Day  through the end of 2024:

6.  Where can people physically go and see the Healing Waters Series of paintings?

Healing Waters series - 95paintings - will be on exhibition from August 26 to the end of the year at Havre de Grace Maritime Museum and Environmental Center located at 100 Lafayette St., Havre De Grace, MD 21078

I thank museum director Jennifer Sim and Museum board members Leslie Kaufman and Bruce Russell for their kind support.

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