Mother of Waters

Artist River Meschi talks about the meaning and inspiration behind her incredible sculpture and sand painting installation, on view at Tacoma Ocean Fest 2023 at the Foss Waterway Seaport, 705 Dock St, Tacoma, from June 2 until July 20.

Baltic mythology – my heritage and one of my sources of inspiration – saw the ocean as the underworld, a place souls go both before and after they are born, and where both we and the sun go at night when we dream. This is the sentiment that inspired the sand painting installation called “Mother of Waters,” which depicts a mountain that births rains and rivers that then empty into an amniotic sea of dreams and souls. 

That she is called the “Mother of Waters” is inspired by the Latvian concept of māte, or sacred animistic beings that birth different aspects of our natural environment. This installation was my attempt to create my own concept of a māte, recognizing the beingness and personhood of the natural forces I live among. It is also a reference to a Lushootseed name for Mount Tahoma, which could be understood figuratively to mean “Mother of Waters,” as the mountain births the rivers and rains that keep our local ecosystem (and ourselves) alive. 

In this exhibition, I seek to evoke the feeling of standing on the edge of a watershed, where one body of water gives birth to another, and to inspire a sense of wonder and reverence for the natural world. My hope is that my art will invite viewers to step into a liminal space where they can see themselves reflected in the water, connect to something greater than themselves, and find new meaning in the spaces in-between.


Come join in the deinstallation at our Ocean Sand Painting Party at 5-7pm Thursday July 20 at the Foss Waterway Seaport! Meet River, receive some sand, learn brush techniques and add your own section to the floor painting! Then we’ll mindfully sweep it up as a community – and you can take some sand home to create.