About the project 

Flow is a community engagement art project created and directed by Naoe Suzuki, a visual artist based in the Greater Boston area in Massachusetts, USA. 

It is a participatory installation where people are invited to respond to a question, “What is your relationship with water?” Reciprocity is a core concept in this project to reflect the kind of stewardship we need with water. Like water, people’s stories flow from one person to another, and their stories are recycled (retyped) again and again. In exchange for the participants’ stories, Naoe offers them a piece of original artwork from the installation, each bearing a typed story about water from other people. This project seeks personal connections with water to realize our role and place on earth, and restore our relationship with this most precious natural resource.  

“What is your relationship with water?”

The emphasis is on “with”—as a partner. How do you want to treat your partner? What kind of relationship are you in with water?

Naoe types this question on Japanese papers that were stained in tea. Water always leaves marks wherever it goes, finds a secret path, and goes where it wants to go. Tea makes the paths of water more visible on paper. Each time she presents this project, she begins the process of staining papers, then adding blue pigment, and retyping participants’ stories. Each installation must be made anew to keep the stories flowing.

In the beginning, the installation looks alive and bright with splashes of blue pigment on each papers. The papers I provide for the participants do not have pigment. Therefore, once people started participating in this exchange, the installation begins to lose the color of blue.

The installation evolves over time with people’s participation. Multitudes of issues on water are complex, but the fact is simple. Without water, we do not survive. None of us do. We must protect water.

Stories as thread, water as our common resource and ground, we connect. 


About the artist

​Naoe Suzuki is a Japanese American visual artist based in Waltham, Massachusetts. Suzuki was born in Tokyo, Japan, and grew up in Chiba prefecture. She first came to the United States in 1985 as a high school exchange student and decided to make this country her home.

In 2011 while she was in residence at Blue Mountain Center in the Adirondacks, Naoe experienced a healing and rejuvenating power of water from her daily swim in a lake. One day she became suddenly overwhelmed by powerful feelings of grief and sorrow, as she sensed this great fluid body she was happily immersed in was gravely threatened and could die one day. She also understood that all waters were connected, and that waters around the world were in deep trouble from human activities. She started working on a ten feet long drawing about water right away. Since then, Naoe has been focusing on water as her main subject in many different media and strategies. Water also plays an important role in her choice of medium such as ink, mineral pigment, and watercolor. She likes using paper in her work for its absorbency, lightness, transportability, textures, and fragility with strength.

​Naoe’s work is conceptually driven by her love for water and nature, and engaged with researching humankind’s relationships with the environment through maps, language, and history.

Naoe received a BA in Art from Bridgewater State University with double minors in Dance and Women’s Studies in 1992 and an MFA in Studio for Interrelated Media from Massachusetts College of Art and Design in 1997. Dancing is still a very important part of her life and she practices Gaga movement language every day. She enjoys swimming in Walden Pond during the summer and tries to visit her favorite lake in the Adirondacks at least once a year.