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.

Return of the Native Garden

Atlanta Native Plant Project at Hurt Park

During the late 18th century, the Atlanta Piedmont area was covered in rich forests, populated with species of plants and animals that no one from continental Europe or the British Isles had ever seen.  The scientific curiosity on the other side of the Atlantic was enormous.  Naturalists shot, skinned, picked, dried, drew and cataloged an amazing variety of plant and animal specimens, sending them to both Europe and England.

In the early 19th century, extensive cotton monoculture leveled the forests and obliterated the local plant communities.  Without plants, the ecosystems of the Atlanta Piedmont were decimated.  In the late 20th century, development compounded the loss of habitat and watershed for all native plants and animals in the Atlanta Metro area.  It is now early in the 21st Century.  The Atlanta Beltline has spurred enormous greenspace initiatives around the Atlanta Metro area.  These initiatives have created hundreds of acres of new restoration possibilities along streams, in newly protected woodlands, and beside trails.

The Hurt Park Native Garden project will allow us to test the hypothesis that drought tolerant native plants create hardy, beautiful landscapes that also carry the benefits of supporting a partial return of the original ecosystem.

The site for the Hurt Park Native Plant garden provides an ideal model for returning the native forbes, or plant species, to the Atlanta area.  The selected area is sloped and has been difficult to maintain with common, non-native plants and grasses, but provides an ideal site for a woodland border plant community.  Although the plants need an initial watering in period, once these plants are established they will be drought tolerant, and need very little care.

We cannot reconstruct the entire ecosystem that once existed in the Atlanta Metro area.   However, with research and perseverance we can restore part of Atlanta’s environmental heritage.

Hurt Park Native Garden Project Team:

Pandra Williams, EcoAddendum

Michael Williams, EcoAddendum

Kathryn Gable, Native Plant Botanical Garden at Perimeter College

Dr. George Sanko, Native Plant Botanical Garden at Perimeter College

Sloane Robinson

Jessica Marshall

Native Sedges provided by and sponsored by Baker Environmental Nursery, Inc.

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.