Hillsides

Pioneering Future Figures: The Harrisons

In the eco-art world there are few folks as significant as the collaborative duo of Helen Mayer Harrison and Newton Harrison (known generally as The Harrisons). Originators of a whole systems perspective in the eco-art movement, they have worked for the past four decades with biologists, ecologists, architects, urban planners and other artists to initiate collaborative dialogues to uncover ideas and solutions which support biodiversity and community development. They work within systems for systems. It’s the future folks and their ideas, while fresh, are as old as humanity.

Can we survive and thrive with beauty and grace?

This is part of a theme that really interest me. The very oldest of human concepts informing our new and unsettling future. Wednesday, June 10, 2009, for example, [sorry: mini plug] the very cool folks at The Long Now Foundation and the new sparkly green David Brower Center in Berkeley, are hosting a talk with the Harrisons (introduced by futurist Paul Saffo). It’s a look at The Harrisons from a 10,000 year perspective. Most art today will be dust or landfill, which is fine, but what did it accomplish that the Earth would notice? Was it worth the big holes dug into hillsides and the CO2 and toxic effluents, fuel and resins? Lots of people beginning to picture what this new world would look like in every discipline and long term planning as art to knit it together is essential. We need more long term art and it’s not about using Archival materials.

Go to the Green Museum

Terroir at the Cheese Factory, Northern California

Finding a venue for both indoor and outdoor art installations, where foot traffic is high, is an art and nature curator’s dream. Last fall, a start up organization called Art at the Cheese Factory, invited me to guest curator the inaugural show at an historic cheese factory in Marin County, 45 minutes North of the Golden Gate Bridge. When I found out that foot traffic at the Marin Cheese Factory is 150,000 visitors a year, my immediate response was “lets do it.” I cannot tell you how many times I have organized group shows, working with over twenty artists, and then have 2,000 people actually come see the show during a two month viewing. It is so much work that I often wonder to myself “why do I do this?” After curating Hybrid Fields in 2006, in Sonoma County, I realized that art and agriculture, combined, are a regional favorite that captures the interest of both foodies and art lovers. Here where happy cows, goats, and sheep roam the hillsides, and vineyards abound, the real challenge has been engaging a culture of mostly landscape painters and object makers in a dialogue on the role that contemporary art can play in expanding the conversations on land and aesthetics. Not that there is isn’t an audience that can have this type of conversation, it has mostly been a resistance to what is perceived as an urban or “city” conversation. During a visit to the UK a little over a year ago, what intrigued me was the commitment by the government to support not only the arts in rural areas, but to also raise the level of conversation about the role rural populations play in the larger culture. It is almost as if the artist has been sent from the Art World to acknowledge what remains of the rural lifestyle that existed say in the 1950s and 60s. And, then there is the history of the place that intrigues the artist. Who lived there and why, their stories. These rich remains in rural areas are savored by artists.

Terroir: A Sense of Place is an exhibition of 28 artists from the Bay Area who through paintings, photography, sculpture, installations, and performative events offer their take on a relationship with soil, air, and water; all the elements that make up our watersheds, ecosystems, and local environment.

For more information go to the exhibition blog at http://artatthecheesefactory.blogspot.com

Go to EcoArtSpace