"River Weaving” by John Siblik is environmental art that you may have seen if you’ve gone by the Kishwaukee River in DeKalb recently. It features 90 elements made of willow, stone and steel. They curve and bend into the water, creating a shape like a hunter’s bow. But the art doesn't hunt fish and wildlife -- it hunts litter.
"We found a lot of cans, a lot of bags and a mattress," Siblik said. "And a coronavirus mask, some shoes, a hairbrush...lots of booze bottles."
Siblik said his signature art installation filters the river to create cleaner, safer waterways for wildlife and people. Not only is there litter in the river, but mercury is in there, too, and the level of mercury in predatory fish is a concern.
Siblik explained how mercury gets in the water.
"It's from burning fossil fuel -- coal, specifically," he said. "As the coal is burned, it produces mercury, and then the mercury collects and drops back in the water and lays in the bottom of the riverbed or the lake."
Crayfish then eat from the polluted riverbed and fish eat the crayfish. Birds such as great blue herons will eat aquatic insects, crayfish and fish.
"You might find a lot of mercury poisoning in their belly lining," he said. "It's amazing how much pollution from greenhouse gases actually end up in the water."
Siblik's art improves the environment. It also draws attention to the area's natural beauty.
"The way light falls on the surface of the water or the way the water moves," he said. "The way the sky is reflected in the water -- the way the piece is changing. You can look at it at different times of the day, or in different kinds of weather."
At least you can until October 11.
"I'll very likely begin taking the piece out shortly after that due to the water temperature," he said. "It's going to be getting a little chilly to be getting into the river after that."
Siblik is an associate professor of art at Northern Illinois University and calls River Weaving his "signature work." This is the sixth version he's created in the past 34 years and it's a part of the 125th anniversary celebration of NIU.
"That's why this piece is installed in the river this time around." He added, "We're having two walking tours of the piece with members of the NIU art museum community."
The public is encouraged to check out the installation on their own or attend one of the free walking tours on Oct. 3 or Oct. 11. Siblik said to meet in the parking lot on the east side of the Music Building at 2:00 p.m. The tours are one hour long and you can register here.