This is not my first residency, however, curators are not often invited to occupy space that is traditionally made available to artists. Last year, visual artist Sue Johnson, Professor of Art and Director of the Environmental Studies program and Artist House Residency at St. Mary’s College of Maryland, sent me an email and invited me to come out for a week, a month, or as long as I needed/wanted. I had included Johnson in an exhibition over a decade ago titled Bug Eyed: Art, Culture, Insects (2004), and was flattered that she invited me. This seemed like a great opportunity to spend time on a campus, interacting with college students, to give a lecture and a workshop, and possibly teach a summer session. We hammered out some dates, titles, and descriptions for my programs, and here I sit now at the Artist House on Mattapany Road in St. Mary’s City, home of Maryland’s first colonial settlement and the first capital of Maryland.
I arrived on February 6th and started prepping for an Art & Ecology lecture and an Art & Food workshop, creating Keynote presentations and curating video clips to share. I could tell right away that the students here–being embedded in a farming culture in rural Maryland, and with environmental science and biology programs on campus–were naturally interested in the interstices of humans and nature. For my lecture on Feb. 22nd, I presented Windsock Currents, an installation I produced on Crissy Field in the Presidio in 2005, and Cloud House, my more recent curatorial public art endeavor in Springfield, Missouri. I presented the evolution of ecoartspace and our activities such as the video archive (presented interview with Buster Simpson) and Action Guides (presented Eve Mosher’s HighWaterLine). I also shared a short video on painter John Sabraw, providing an example of the remediative art that will be the focus of my Summer session I’ve proposed titled Debris Fields: Aesthetic Solutions to Industrial By-products. Attendance was over 100 including students and community members who stayed seated until the end; a resounding success as I am told!
On Saturday Feburary 25th, I presented a six-hour workshop on art and farming, starting off with performative artworks from the 1970s including: FOOD restaurant in Soho by Gordon Matta-Clark and Carol Goodden; Making Earth by Newton Harrison; and The Farm an alternative school by Bonnie Sherk. I also presented Exchange Values by Shelley Sacks, an artist from the UK whose work inspired me to focus on art and food production after meeting her in 2005. And, I presented works by a few of the artists in my 2006 exhibition Hybrid Fields presented at the Sonoma County Museum, including: Susan Steinman’s Sweet Survival; Laura Parker’s Taste of Place; Temescal Amity Works Sonoma Preserves; Wowhaus’ Tree, Trust, True; and Matthew Moore’s Green Roof. More recent works that were shown included: The Waffle Shop in Pittsburgh; Lauren Bon’s Not-A-Cornfield; Amy Franceschini’s This is Not a Trojan Horse; and Matthew Mazzotta’s Harm-to-Table. We discussed how food miles are calculated and the challenges that this model presents. And, before breaking into two groups to brainstorm potential projects for St. Mary’s City, I took them down a “darker” path to examine the work of Hugh Pocock, MyFoodMyPoop, and Jae Rhim Lee’s Mushroom Burial Suit. We also watch segments of the documentary The Real Dirt on Farmer John an artist/farmer who comes close to losing the family farm, and excerpts from the play Map of My Kingdom about the transfer of farm land.
I’ve been here three weeks now, with five more to go. I’ll be giving a talk to an environmental economics class February 27th (tomorrow), and another talk to a sculpture class on March 22nd. I’ve also been invited up to Baltimore to speak to an Urban Farming class taught by Hugh Pocock at the Maryland Institute of Contemporary Art on March 20th, as part of his Sustainability and Social Practice program. Looking forward to experiencing the change of season, from winter to spring, here in the land of oysters on the Potomac River in the Chesapeake Bay, the largest estuary in the USA.
ecoartspace ecoartspace is a nonprofit platform providing opportunities for artists who address the human/nature relationship in the visual arts. Since 1999 they have collaborated with over 150 organizations to produce more than 40 exhibitions, 100 programs, working with 400 + artists in 15 states nationally and 8 countries internationally. Currently they are developing a media archive of video interviews with artists and collection of exhibitions ephemera for research purposes. Patricia Watts is founder and west coast curator. Amy Lipton is east coast curator and director of the ecoartspace NYC project room.
A project of the Social and Environmental Entrepreneurs since 1999