When Eric Tillinghast talks about making art, he talks about playing. And his favorite plaything is water.
Tillinghast creates installations that use the vital element we often take for granted. His newest project, Rain Machine, will fill the 2,800-square-foot Gallery of Contemporary Art at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs. No fancy music or flashing lights, no bells and whistles. Just the sight and sound of a thousand streams of water falling from an 11-foot-high grid onto a rubber pool liner.
"I'm trying to light just the falling water and let everything else disappear," Tillinghast says.
Water has been a consistent theme in his art. Before he started creating installations in 1994, his sculptures incorporated water; when he needs a break from massive projects, he does paintings of the world's deepest lakes.
The 38-year-old Californian recognizes water's environmental and political baggage.
"I think every year that goes by, we realize more about how much of an issue it really is," he says. "You've got this natural element that does all these things inherently. And that's kind of what I've been playing with: the nature of water and what it does as a material."
GOCA curator Daisy McConnell, who shares Tillinghast's fascination with water, spent about two years arranging the exhibit and his three-week campus residency.
It's appropriate, she says, that the water will re-circulate throughout the installation — mimicking the Earth's own cycle.
"All the water we've ever had is re-circulating," McConnell says. "We're all drinking dinosaur pee, whether we like it or not."
She's organized a lecture series to accompany the installation: Speakers including UCCS professors and a Colorado representative for famed artist Christo will present brief talks on topics such as fracking, the Colorado River and, of course, the Over the River project.
Who knows, maybe they'll even talk about dinosaur pee.