River’s Lover by Anna Heinen

Eric Roden, Matt Ginder-Vogel, and their research partners study how the river water’s infiltration of the creekbed changes the chemistry of the river and creates pockets for microorganisms to thrive. This interaction between the river and the creekbed made Heinen think of pregnancy because it illustrates the process of two beings coming together to create something new and then, with birth, letting it go separate from oneself. The River’s Lover is a wearable ceramic womb meant to be experienced while submerged in moving water, where the womb and stones inside will fill with water and become heavy with its weight. When the wearer emerges from the water, it will drain out and become light again, leaving the water changed by the interaction it just had with the ceramic womb. The River’s Lover allows the person wearing the womb to take on the role of the Creekbed and experience the sensations the River and the Creekbed may feel as they interact. By using human pregnancy to represent these ecological processes Heinen invites audiences to engage with complex research through a poetic story about birth.


Heinen is a fifth year BFA candidate at UW–Madison studying ceramics under Gerit Grimm and Christina West. They have been working with clay for nine years. Heinen likes processes that are physical and have a rich history in the craft world. They are a queer non-binary artist and often explore themes of identity and the body. As an ex-Catholic, Heinen remains fascinated by the Church’s ideas of reverence; currently Heinen’s work focuses on creating Earth-centered spiritual spaces by reclaiming these ideas. Heinen enjoys foraging, the sound of trickling streams, and hanging out with their cat Doves.

ABOUT THE Water Partner

Eric Roden (pictured left), Department of Geoscience, and Matt Ginder-Vogel (pictured right), Departament of Civil and Environmental Engineer, are water researchers in the Environmental Chemistry and Technology Program at UW-Madison. They are currently studying the input and transport of particulate materials and solutes in the sediments of river ecosystems. Riverbed sediments act as a repository for natural and human-derived materials, and the interaction between fluid flow and chemical and biological reactions in the riverbed plays a key role in regulating water quality and biological communities in flowing water environments. For more information please visit www.biogeoriverbed.org