The Art History of Air and Water in Mexico

Stacie G. Widdifield, Professor of Art History

Art History Professor Stacie G. Widdifield, with Geography and Development Professor Jeffery Banister, examined the role that Chapultepec Park – a historically significant site in the middle of Mexico City – has played in the relationship between humans and water in the midst of a dynamic urban milieu. The role of visual images, i.e., land- and aqua-scapes, in the development of public sensitivities to resources was a key part of the investigation. The park is also an elegant reflection of the larger struggle – in Mexico and across the planet – to protect the global commons in the face of rapid environmental change and to create a sense of connection between people and the places that sustain them.

The project included an on-line exhibition of the works studied in the project and those created in a new graduate seminar, “Waterworks,” as well as a week-long “think tank." The team included faculty, staff and graduate students as well as a scholar affiliated with the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México and the Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia.

This work led to an American Council of Learned Societies Collaborative Research Fellowship and published articles, including: Seeing Water in Early Twentieth-century Mexico City: Henry Wellge's Perspective Plan of the City and Valley of Mexico, D.F., 1906 in Anales del Instituto de Investigaciones Esteticas (2015) and The Debut of 'Modern Water' in Early 20th century Mexico City: The Xochimilco Potable Waterworks in the Journal of Historical Geography (2014). In June 2016, the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Latin American History published The History and Visual Culture of Mexico City’s Xochimilco Potable Water System during the Porfiriato.