Suburbs vs. moss


We want green, but we want to control it.  Mow it, trim it, contain it, cut it, if it doesn’t behave or doesn’t fit our plans, poison it, kill it.

False sanitary neatness, cleanliness …Birds are ok as long as they don’t poop on our car.   Chipmunks are cute as long as they don’t wreck our flower beds.  The suburbs are an enormous human conceit, an attempted refabrication of Nature into a safe, sterile, unsurprising womb.  The moss chair is a form of dialectic concerning urban and suburban cultural blindness.  Urbanites and suburbanites have become the non-cognoscenti of the natural planet.  Children grow up afraid to splash in creeks and catch frogs, bugs, or play with caterpillars.

In our attempts to control Nature  we have exterminated entire species of animals: amphibians, insects, birds, fish, mammals…By reorganizing Nature according to our artificially generated organizational grid, we have actually weakened and poisoned the natural systems that sustain us, the plant transpiration and rain cycles that provide us with the very water and air we depend on.  By poisoning icky, crawly critters like insects,  we have decimated the insect pollinators which are responsible for 30% of the food we eat (all fruits and vegetables.)

We have killed the beneficial microbes that create healthy soils, leaving us to rely upon better food through chemistry, an unsustainable and poisonous proposition at it’s best.  Our rich, vibrant soils, communities of live microorganisms and their products, are dying via our arrogance, eroding away to the bare, infertile, sterile mineral substrates or subsoils.

We are big, so we are important.  In ecological terms, however, the smaller something is, the more important it may be.  Perhaps we will lose our fisticuffs with the small, icky, insentient microbes that truly run the planet, and the plants that depend upon them.

My next few installations are using live plant material.  I will be updating this post with pictures as the three projects I am currently working on are being assembled.

About the Radicis installation

radix -icis f. Latin. [a root; the foot of a mountain]; in gen. [foundation , basis, origin]

The foundation of most life on the planet is derived from the sun’s energy.

radix -icis f. Latin. [a root; the foot of a mountain]; in gen. [foundation , basis, origin]

The foundation of most life on the planet is derived from the sun’s energy.

The sun is the great engine, radiating energy throughout the cosmos, onto our planet. Plants absorbing that energy turn it into carbohydrates, sugars: food.
The macroscopic community interacts with the sun above ground, absorbing its energy through plant material. Plants, however, have a continuing and more complex story of associations.

Urban Tumulus: 11,000 pounds out of 12,500 pounds

Jessica Marshall E., Michael and I made 12,500 pounds of adobe bricks for the Urban Tumulus installation this past July. Earth, sand, straw, water. Each air-dried brick measures 5 inches by 10 inches by 16 inches, and weighs 50 pounds. I don’t know how heavy they were when they were wet and newly unmolded. We made 250 bricks. The weather was damnably hot, bright, and dry, the hottest week of the summer, with temperatures ranging from 98 to 103 degrees. Making adobe is brutal physical labor, each day we needed to make between 35 -45 bricks. At the end of each day we were trashed. All of us who were involved with the project have a deep appreciation for the labor that goes into building an adobe dwelling.


Jessica Marshall E.’s perspective

Wrapped in a sweeping coat of compost, Urban Tumulus is a process in existence.  Its mass is substantial and gives it a presence that wants embracing.  Drawn to the internal womb I find it welcoming and comforting.  Once inside it is safe and hard to leave but never the least bit claustrophobic. (more…)

Urban Tumulus

Soil.  The Urban Tumulus is about soil.  Soil is under our feet.  We depend upon it, we ignore it, we don’t see it.  All of our food comes from soil.  All of us return to soil.  The soil of Urban Tumulus addresses the viewer.


Installation Art: Intercession of the Corporeal, ruminations…

My installation work is an intercession of the corporeal.

A Natural History diorama creates a loss of viewer interaction. Nature is preserved and glassed in. The viewer is only that: a bystander, not a participant. In this position, the viewer cannot catch the glassed in, formaldehyde-pickled frog between his/her hands, cannot feel the muscular squirm of a live frog as it tries to flee, smell its viscous yet delicate skin, peer at the bronze filigree in it’s iris. There is a veil of glass, poison and death between the viewer and the once live frog. The diorama or simulacra, while easily kept, is a replacement for visceral reality, the interaction between subjects in time and space within a dimensional environment (without glass). The diorama creates a layer of distance, of abstraction between the viewer and the subject.



Grotesque: Beauty
Disgusting! For some people, body humor is not considered to be in the realm of appropriate or polite behavior. The carnivale and humor of the grotesque in medieval Europe was considered “low,” of the earth, of genitals, bowels, sex, defecation and death. (Isack, pp 19-23) In this unofficial and unapproved behavior and language form, lay the power of shock, of owning and honoring (in a bizarre fashion) the peripheralized. Jo Anna Isaak, Feminism and Contemporary Art: the Revolutionary Power of Women’s Laughter, and Mikhail Bakhtin, Rabelais and His World, shed much light on the reasons why peripheralized populations of the present time may adopt “shocking” or “unofficial” speech forms in their vernacular and art forms.