A Line Made By Flooding – Artist Eve Mosher: “I Never Wanted to Be Right”


In 2007 artist Eve S. Mosher used beacons and chalk to mark the projected high water line in Brooklyn and Manhattan. (Battery Park photo by Hose Cedeno courtesy highwaterline.org)



Artist Eve Mosher in 2007 (Photo courtesy highwaterline.org)


“I never wanted this to be a reality,” artist Eve Mosher wrote on her website the week Hurricane Sandy devastated parts of New York and New Jersey. “Five years ago I couldn’t have even imagined it.”

In 2007 Mosher created High Water Line, a public art project in Manhattan and Brooklyn that brought the topic of climate change directly to the city’s residents. Using topographic maps, satellite images, research from NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies at Columbia University, and a Heavy Hitter (a machine typically used to draw chalk lines on ball fields), Moser walked 70 miles of New York coastline, drawing a blue chalk line on the ground ten feet above sea level—the anticipated high water line due to climate change. In other areas, where she was unable to draw a line, she marked the high water boundary with illuminated beacons.


“High Water Line” in the West Village as Eve Mosher drew it in 2007 (Photo courtesy evemosher.com)



(Photo by Curtis Hamilton for The Canary Project courtesy highwaterline.org)



Installing beacons beside the Brooklyn Bridge (Photo courtesy highwaterline.org)



Sea life inside one of the beacons that Eve Mosher installed in New York (Photo courtesy highwaterline.org)


Elizabeth Kolbert describes Eve’s project in a recent issue of The New Yorker :

Ten feet above sea level was the height that waters were expected to reach in New York during a hundred-year flood. Owing to climate change, though, the whole concept of a hundred-year flood was becoming obsolete. By the twenty-twenties, according to a report that Mosher read by a scientist at Columbia University, what used to be a hundred-year flood could be happening once every forty years. By the twenty-fifties, as sea levels continued to rise, it would become a twenty-year event. And by the twenty-eighties it could be occurring as often as once every four years. Mosher couldn’t understand why a projection like this wasn’t a major topic of discussion in Washington. In fact, it wasn’t being discussed at all.

As Mosher made her way around Brooklyn and, later, Manhattan, she hoped that the High Water Line, as she called her project, would prompt people to ask her what she was doing. “I wanted to leave this visually interesting mark, to open up a space for conversation,” she said last week

The audaciousness of Mosher’s project allowed her to engage with an economically and racially diverse group of residents. As she walked through neighborhoods, she talked to people, handed out flyers, and explained her motivations for drawing a 70-mile line through their communities. Workshops, education booklets, and a website were also an integral part of the project.


Eve Mosher talking with residents during her High Water Line project (Photo courtesy evemosher.com)



Tracing the “High Water Line” along the battery (Photo by Hose Cedeno courtesy highwaterline.org)



Beacons marking the high water line in Battery Park (Photo by Hose Cedeno courtesy highwaterline.org)


Eve Mosher and local children install beacons at a ball field in Red Hook (Photo courtesy evemosher.com)



As Mosher walked through neighborhoods in 2007, she talked to locals, handed out flyers, and explained her motivations for drawing a 70-mile line through their communities (Photo by Edward Morris for the Canary Project courtesy highwaterline.org)


Mosher’s work exists in that imaginative, provocative place where art, politics, and landscape converge. Like striking picketers or civil rights advocates, Mosher understands that the singular act of walking can be a powerful form of public protest. She is also working in the tradition of artists like Dennis Oppenheim and Richard Long, whose seminal 1967 project A Line Made By Walking forever altered the way we view performance and sculpture. This is a powerful example of art as evidence—of bringing art directly to a community instead of expecting the community to come to you.

But it’s one thing to imagine a worst case scenario, and another to experience it firsthand. “It is an awkward situation in which I find myself,” Mosher wrote on her blog after Sandy struck. “These projects are really really important in engaging around the very harsh, scary and sad realities of climate change. But seeing it is another thing. It hurts. It is scary. I am speechless often and shocked by the images.”

In the below video, we see Mosher marking the high-water line in DUMBO, while engaging with children and park visitors. But just a few weeks ago, this was the scene in DUMBO: the famous Jane’s Carousel glowing eerily as the flood waters rose. (Not to mention the heartbreaking photographs still coming out of New Jersey, Queens, Red Hook, Long Island and other hard hit areas where many people are still suffering).


Few photographs from Hurricane Sandy were as haunting as this image of Jane’s Carousel flooding along the DUMBO waterfront. (Photo by @andjelicaaa via Instagram)



Eve Mosher marking the high-water line near the Brooklyn Bridge and Jane’s Carousel (Photo courtesy evemosher.com)



Mosher’s high-water line at the 14th Street ConEd Substation, which exploded and flooded during Hurricane Sandy. (Photo courtesy evemosher.com)



The same ConEd substation during the storm (Photo courtesy the Associated Press)



Seawater floods the entrance to the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel in New York on October 29, 2012. (Photo by John Minchillo of the Associated Press courtesy theatlantic.com)


“I have pictures of where I drew the line and, if you look at the debris line, they’re pretty close,” Mosher told the The New Yorker . “For instance, the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel, I drew the line right along that entrance that we keep seeing the flooded images of.”

As Mosher discovered during her project, a surprisingly large area of land in New York lies below the high-water line. Sadly, many New Yorkers found out this fact the hard way.

Mosher says that she loves New York, her adopted home, and wants to protect it. On Halloween, when the artist posted a new blog entry about the effects of Sandy on her beloved city, she titled her post “I never wanted to be right.”

You can watch a short video about the High Water Line project here:

(Can’t see the video in your email? Click here to watch the film on the Gwarlingo website).


HighWaterLine from eve mosher on Vimeo.


There are many organizations offering assistance to those impacted by Sandy. For a detailed list of resources for artists and arts organizations affected by the storm, visit ARTINFO.com.

For more information about Eve S. Mosher’s work, you can visit her website. The High Water Line site also has a useful page of resources. The Canary Project, a non-profit that produces art and media that deepen public understanding of human-induced climate change and energize commitment to solutions, was one of the supporters of the High Water Line project.


(Photo by Curtis Hamilton for The Canary Project courtesy highwaterline.org)



The “High Water Line” in Gowanus (Photo by Eve Mosher courtesy highwaterline.org)



(Photo by Curtis Hamilton for the Canary Project courtesy highwaterline.org)


Stay up on the latest poetry, books, and art news by having Gwarlingo delivered to your email inbox. It’s easy and free! You can also follow Gwarlingo on Twitter and Facebook.

Gwarlingo needs your help. Support this site by making a donation of any size. Gwarlingo takes countless hours of work each month, and your help keeps this site going. Just think of it as a digital magazine subscription! (If you’re reading this in an email, and the below button doesn’t work, click here to donate to Gwarlingo.)




By | 2016-11-11T21:52:14+00:00 11.16.12|Greatest Hits, Images|6 Comments

About the Author:

I’ve spent almost 20 years helping thousands of successful artists of all disciplines and working to make the arts more accessible. (One friend likes to call me “the arts enabler.”) From 1999-2012 I worked at The MacDowell Colony, the nation’s oldest artist colony, but I've also done time at an arts magazine, a library, an art museum, and a raptor rehabilitation center. In May of 2012 I left MacDowell to pursue writing, speaking, curating, and creative projects full-time. In 2015 I was named a “Top 100 Artist, Innovator, Creative” by Origin magazine. I've appeared as an arts and culture commentator on New Hampshire Public Radio, and in 2017 I was the recipient of the Wampler Art Professorship at James Madison University. I am the founder of the Gwarlingo Salon series, which connects artists like DJ Spooky with rural audiences in the Monadnock region. In 2017 my collaborator Corwin Levi and I will publish our first book, Mirror Mirrored, which combines Grimms’ fairy tales with vintage illustration remixes and the work of contemporary artists like Kiki Smith, Carrie Mae Weems, and Amy Cutler. I grew up in Atlanta, Georgia, but have called New Hampshire home since 1999. My studio is located in the historic, mill village of Harrisville. I miss fried okra, the early southern spring, and restaurants that stay open past 9:00 p.m., but rural life agrees with me. In New Hampshire I can see the stars, go kayaking or snowshoeing, watch bald eagles fish in the lake, and focus on my creative work in silence. I no longer have to worry about traffic jams; deer, wild turkeys, and frost heaves are the primary road hazards here. Although I live in the country, I’m fortunate enough to be part of a vibrant arts community that extends beyond this small New England village. The quiet days are punctuated by regular travel and frequent visits to museums, theaters, readings, arts events, lectures, and open studios around the country. (You can read my full CV here.) Thanks for visiting Gwarlingo. I hope you'll be in touch.


  1. roger king November 17, 2012 at 8:33 am

    This is so poignant, that a single artist found a way to alert the world to a looming catastrophe that seems so much beyond any individual effort; and so poignant that she was so right; and so poignant that those with the power have been so willfully blind. It’s difficult for an arts magazine to find a proper response to the immediacy of tragedy but this is a beautifully balanced piece. We were told; we did nothing.

  2. Colette November 17, 2012 at 8:36 am

    Seeing photos of the accuracy of the line, particularly the shot of the entrance to the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel, is pretty horrific. Thank you to Eve and The Canary Project for this work.

    • Michelle Aldredge November 17, 2012 at 8:54 am

      Thanks Colette and Roger for your comments. For me, Mosher’s project does what all great art does–it makes something abstract and invisible real. It’s even better that the art-making process happens directly on the street. It seems like artists are so often ahead of the curve when it comes to issues like these. Unfortunately, it often takes real tragedy to get the public’s attention.

      Colette, I was very happy to discover The Canary Project, which is supporting some interesting work. You might be interested to know that they were involved in Fritz Haeg’s Edible Estates project! (An all-time favorite of ours).

      Thank you for reading and commenting!

  3. Weekend Reading 11/30/12 | Sightline Daily November 30, 2012 at 11:01 am

    […] essay about the disappearance of the repair economy. Friend Laura Hirschfield tossed me a link to this photo essay about a prophetic art project that marked a high-water mark on New York City long before Sandy struck. Finally, on a lighter […]

  4. […] few months ago I shared Eve Mosher’s piece, High Water Line, a public art project in Manhattan and Brooklyn that brought the topic of climate change directly […]

  5. Sharon Cornwall July 4, 2013 at 7:14 pm

    Looking forward to your 2014 spring visit to Philadelphia. Be glad to help you out and I know my students at Little Flower Catholic High School for Girls would appreciate your mission.

Comments are closed.