Field to Palette: Book Release

Field to Palette: Dialogues on Soil and Art in the Anthropocene is an investigation of the cultural meanings, representations, and values of soil in a time of planetary change. The book offers critical reflections on some of the most challenging environmental problems of our time, including land take, groundwater pollution, desertification, and biodiversity loss. At the same time, the book celebrates diverse forms of resilience in the face of such challenges, beginning with its title as a way of honoring locally controlled food production methods championed by "field to plate" movements worldwide. By focusing on concepts of soil functionality, the book weaves together different disciplinary perspectives in a collection of dialogue texts between artists and scientists, interviews by the editors and invited curators, essays and poems by earth scientists and humanities scholars, soil recipes, maps, and DIY experiments. With contributions from over 100 internationally renowned researchers and practitioners, Field to Palette presents a set of visual methodologies and worldviews that expand our understanding of soil and encourage readers to develop their own interpretations of the ground beneath our feet.

Edited by Alexandra Toland, Jay Stratton Noller and Gerd Wessolek. 
Published by CRC Press

ecoartspace was invited by Alexandra Toland to contribute a piece for Field to Palette back in 2014. The book is sectioned by soil function, and included in Function 3 titled Interface: Soil as site of environmental interaction, filtration and transformation is an interview with Mel Chin by founder Patricia Watts, and NYC Director Amy Lipton. Titled Don't Worry, It's Only Mud, the interview includes excerpts from their discussion with Chin in 2015 in the East Village on his soil projects such as Revival Field and Operation Paydirt/The Fundred Dollar Bill. Both Watts and Lipton have curated exhibitions of artists addressing how food is grown, distributed and consumed, many who are included in Field to Palette. Watts recently curated a public art sculpture Cloud House by Matthew Mazzotta, and the exhibition Hybrid Fields in 2006, which included Laura Parker and Matthew Moore, who are both interviewed in the book. Tattfoo Tan and his Black Gold was included in the ecoartspace SOS Action Guide in 2014, a project also featured in the book. Lipton curated FoodSHED: Agriculture and Art in Action in 2014 including Linda Weintraub, one of the book's contributors; It's the End of the World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine) in 2013, including Aviva Rahmani, also a contributor; and Jackie Brookner: Of Nature, a retrospective at Wave Hill in 2016, the subject of one of the feature essays in Field to Palette.


Contemplating OTHER at Gallery Route One in Point Reyes

Contemplating Other: I know you are, You know I am
Gallery Route One, Pointe Reyes Station, California
Reception Thursday December 21st from 3-5pm
Exhibition runs through January 28, 2018

Includes painting, sculpture and video contemplating the human/animal relationship,
while addressing confinement, wildness, and husbandry. Includes Alicia Escott,
Linda Guenste and Brigitta Varadi. Organized and curated by Patricia Watts, founder of ecoartspace, in collaboration with Gallery Route One (GRO) in Point Reyes, California.

Our human relationship with animals has dramatically altered over time. As world populations continue to rise and as wild spaces are reduced due to human encroachments, our heightened interactions with animals expand our awareness of both ourselves and other. As individuals, our consciousness of the boundaries between humans and animals ultimately determines our own fate as a species. Having become dependent on animals for psychological and nutritional needs, human beings don’t often know where the self ends and the other begins.  

In 2015 the New Zealand government formally recognized animals as sentient beings by amending animal welfare legislation, an enlightened perspective. This amendment acknowledges that animals experience both positive and negative emotions, including pain and distress, as humans do. Shockingly, however, the British government recently voted not to transfer parts of EU legislation into UK law, parts that recognize animals as sentient beings, a not so enlightened perspective. 

Historically, it has been posited that animals live “on the surface” and do not engage in self-reflective thought. They likely did not have the ability to process events or have memories like those of humans. Their lives were considered a series of situations, one after the other, instead of an intellectual endeavor. And, we were told, they lacked critical reflection and were not able to differentiate objects from people. These theories have been considered as facts.

The three artists in Contemplating OTHER arrive at their subject from different
perspectives and use diverse media, while they all reflect on the human-animal relationship in their art. 


Alicia Escott places herself in the role of animal, physically cloaking herself in sheets of found plastics, upon which she has delicately painted wild animals. She then places herself in nature for documentation. Her work takes the form of photographs, video performances, and installations.

Linda Guenste makes vivid paintings that reflect her experiences of finding the remains of abandoned corrals scattered throughout the Great Plains states of America. There, cattle were historically rounded up in small groups and loaded onto trucks, then hauled off to slaughter. 

Brigitta Varadi works with raw sheep wool to present an aesthetic element of farming practices, in which animals are marked with color-coded paints to identify ownership. Her paintings remind us that animal husbandry links us humans with animals psychologically as well as for our dietary survival.


Re/Imagine: How Artists Interpret the World


Curator Amy Lipton was invited to present on the work of ecoartspace at the The Brown Arts Initiative (BAI)  re|ACT: symposium on arts and environment March 3 & 4, 2017 at the Granoff Center for the Creative Arts, Brown University.

The symposium initiated the BAI and brought together cutting edge artists, curators and scholars whose work engages with the multiplicity of environments in which we live. From the natural environment to data mediascapes to sonic ecologies, re|ACT showcased the latest arts practice and research that reacts to and with the environment.

A consortium of six art departments and two affiliated programs representing the performing, visual and literary arts at Brown University, the BAI is designed to foster an interdisciplinary environment where faculty, students, artists and scholars in a wide range of fields from across the campus and around the world can learn from and inspire one another.

Lipton was invited to participate on a panel titled, re|IMAGINE: How Artists Interpret the World. Visual artists and curators who respond to the world around them, whether they view environments as politicized, natural or social.

Each panelist discussed their individual practices, which had a common theme—how the making of art can be a tool for social and cultural change. David Buckland described his organization, Cape Farewell, which has sponsored expeditions involving more than 350 artists calling attention to climate change. Seitu Jones shared his public installation work in his hometown of St. Paul, MN, including The Community Meal, a mile-long, outdoor dining experience that connected over 2,000 residents through locally sourced, healthy food. Amy Lipton related how she and Patricia Watts, co- founders of the ecoartspace gallery without walls, have paired artists with scientists, engineers, architects and botanists, using “art as a pathway towards a more sustainable and resilient future.” Paul Villinski spoke of repurposing the detritus of his neighborhood into artwork evocative of flight and building a self-contained ecosystem in his studio that nurtured live butterflies, recurring imagery in his work.

Asked by moderator Anne Bergeron if artists have a responsibility to engage in political or social action, the panelists agreed that responses will vary by individual, but each must reflect on this personally. “It takes time to come to that place [of artistic activism],” said Lipton, “but it’s urgently needed.” Villinski invoked President Barack Obama: “We are the first generation to feel the impact of climate change, and the last to be able to do anything about it.”

“Leave your community more beautiful than you found it.” —Seitu Jones

See Panelists page for more information on the individual panelists. #BAI2017


Care as Culture: Artists, Activists and Scientists Build Coalitions to Resist Climate Change

On February 12, I participated as a panelist/respondent on “Care as Culture: Artists, Activists and Scientists Build Coalitions to Resist Climate Change, A Convening Around the Peace Table.” This event was held at the Queens Museum in conjunction with the exhibition Mierle Laderman Ukeles: Maintenance Art and took place at the large circular “Peace Table,” a centerpiece of her large retrospective exhibition. Our afternoon of discussion brought together a group of artists, activists, and scientists. One goal of the roundtable was to brainstorm methods for coalition building across these disciplines, to effectively multiply the power to confront an environmental, political, and spiritual crisis in our increasingly antagonistic time. Questions posed were;  “How can we create a broad cultural movement to combat the policies of a new administration intent on dismantling many of the safeguards that reduce the effects of climate change?” “How can successful coalitions be introduced, and the urgent ways artists can begin the process of coalition building” and “what prevents us from working together and how can we advocate for change?”

The presenters included Newton Harrison, The Natural History Museum, Natalie Jeremijenko, (absent) and Mary Mattingly. Respondents included Carol Becker, Francesco Fiondella, Allan Frei, Hope Ginsburg, Alicia Grullon, Klaus H. Jacob, Amy Lipton, Lisa Marshall, Jennifer McGregor, Aviva Rahmani, Jason Smerdon, and Marina Zurkow. Newton Harrison presented on the concepts, outcomes, and collaborations that were part of “A Vision for the Green Heart of Holland” 1995. The Harrison Studio consists of Helen Mayer Harrison (b.1929) and Newton Harrison (b.1932) who are among the earliest and the best known ecological artists. Working with biologists, ecologists, architects, urban planners, and other artists, the Harrison Studio initiates collaborative dialogues to uncover ideas and solutions that support biodiversity and community development.

Speaking on behalf of the collective The Natural History Museum was co-founder Beka Economopoulos. In her presentation “Tactics for the Trumpocene” she addressed the museum’s latest work to build coalitions between scientists, Indigenous communities and museum professionals. The Natural History Museum’s mission is to affirm the truth of science. The museum is a project of Not An Alternative, a collective of artists, scientists, historians, theorists, and activists. Launched in 2014, The Natural History Museum is a mobile and pop-up museum that offers exhibitions, expeditions, educational workshops, and public programming. Unlike traditional natural history museums, it makes a point to include and highlight the socio-political forces that shape nature.

Artist Mary Mattingly presented “Swale,” an experiential public space and artwork on New York’s waterways that provides access to free food through perennial urban agriculture along with coalition members Lindsay Campbell, Dariella Rodriguez, Bram Gunther (Co-Director of the NYC Urban Field Station), and docents from the Youth Ministries for Peace and Justice: Brandon Kane and Anthony Lespier. Mattingly is an artist who takes societal consumption and ecological crisis as points of inquiry. Working with community members ranging from scientists to engineers, students, and neighbors, she co-creates sculptural ecosystems in urban spaces. Mattingly is engaged in questions about how art can influence policy and strengthen the commons.

Panelist/Respondents included Carol Becker, Professor of the Arts and Dean of Faculty at Columbia University School of the Arts; Francesco Fiondella from the International Research institute for Climate and Society at Columbia University’s Earth Institute; Allan Frei, climatologist and Deputy Director of the CUNY Institute for Sustainable Cities; Hope Ginsburg, artist; Alicia Grullon, artist and founder of Percent for Green, Bronx, NY; Klaus H. Jacob, geophysicist and Professor of Environmental Science at Barnard College; Amy Lipton, Director/Curator at ecoartspace; Lisa Marshall, community organizer for Mothers Out Front, NY; Jennifer McGregor, Director of Arts and Senior Curator at Wave Hill, Bronx, NY; Aviva Rahmani, artist and visiting professor at Stony Brook University, NY; Jason Smerdon, Associate Research Professor at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University and Marina Zurkow, media artist and faculty member at ITP/Tisch School of the Arts.

The convening took place over the course of 3 plus hours and gave time after the presenters for respondents to speak, address the posed questions and add to those questions. It was a day where dire concerns for the future were expressed, while simultaneously the uplifting wit, energy, knowledge and spirit of the participants proved to be an affirmation of like-mindedness and shared ideas towards coalition building, which had been expressed as a goal of the gathering. Having participated on many such panels, my hope is for continued dialogue. The group resolved to stay in communication beyond the event.

Amy Lipton


Curator-in-Residence, St. Mary's College of Maryland

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

Patricia Watts


Art-in-Nature: Enchantment Wrap Up

The Moving Clouds (performance) by Minoosh Zomorodina

Within You and Without You (terrace site-work) by Faith Purvey

Park Pool Province (poolside fence work) by Karen Reitzel

Cloud Chamber (aviary site-work) by Ben Allanoff

Enchantment: a feeling of great pleasure, delight; the state of being under a spell or magic; a feeling of being attracted by something interesting, pretty, something that holds your attention. 

This month marks the closing of Enchantment at Peter Strauss Ranch in Agoura Hills, California. Three temporary site works were installed in May and the final performance was on Saturday September 10th. Each artist was provided an honorarium by ecoartspace to cover materials and incidentals. It was the fourth successful collaboration between ecoartspace and the National Park Service (NPS); the others, Windsock Currents at Crissy Field in the Presidio (2005), and at the Grand Canyon South Rim Artist-in-Residence Program (2009 and 2012). 

Peter Strauss Ranch is home of an enchanting oak woodland that was inhabited for thousands of years by the Chumash people, and later as part of the Rancho Las Virgenes after Spanish Colonization. The modern Pool and rustic Terrace were built in the 1940s when Warren Shobert and Arthur Edeson purchased the ranch and transformed it into Lake Enchanto, an amusement park and retreat. Lake Enchanto closed in 1960. Peter Strauss purchased and restored the ranch in 1976 and lived on site until 1983. The ranch was then sold to the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy, and the National Park Service purchased the ranch in 1987 as part of the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area. It is located in the Triunfo Creek drainage.

About the works:

Cloud Chamber: Memories, Dreams and Reflections by Ben Allanoff transformed an existing aviary structure originally built by a former owner Harry Miller, a pioneering automotive engineer who used the ranch as a weekend retreat in the 1920. For this site, Allanoff cut biomorphic shapes from sheet metal and hung them from the top of the wire cage, a symbolism of the birds that once resided there. The reflective shapes were strikingly architectural, while "evocative of the spirits or energies that animate our world and our individual psyches that cannot be grasped," stated the artist.

Park Pool Province by Karen Reitzel included two fabric panels tied to the fencing around an abandoned circular cement pool constructed with hand-dyed strips of silk scarf material. One depicted two prancing poodles and poison oak leaves on aqua blue silk that later faded to white, and the other depicted a helicopter with swimming poodle-shaped clouds on fleshy pink colored silk, which could be seen from the adjacent terrace. The artist was inspired by the sites history of leisure, pleasure, and artifice, and the contemporary condition of partly re-natured, drought-stricken lands in close proximity to encroaching development.

Within You and Without You by Faith Purvey located on a terraced hill overlooking the circular pool was an ascending triangular pathway made with burlap and orange fabric trim. Participants climbing the hill entered a perceptual shift of the mind and an eventual meditative vantage space at the crest. Alluding to the rising stair paths found on Mayan Temples, the artist made use of the sites archaic architectural qualities to position her viewers to feel as though they had stepped into the distant past--whether meditating on 8,000 years of Chumash habitation, or the mysterious disappearance of the Mayan civilizations. 

The Moving Clouds performance on Saturday, September 10th, by Minoosh Zomorodinia, was sited in front of the aviary where she engaged visitors along a path while they passed through on their way to the Tiny Porches monthly concert series. Dressed in all white, including her hijab, with several layers of shiny silver Mylar sheeting overlaid, the artist performed a series of personal ritual actions including repetitions of walking, marching, and jumping to animate her concerns for the changing climate. The reflective material was used to visually connect with nature, land, and the physicality of the human body, while re-creating the sounds of the oceans.

Special thanks goes to Ranger Tori Kuykendall who invited ecoartspace to curate this summer art-in-the-park program, and to Ben Allanoff who suggested ecoartspace to Tori and laid the groundwork for Enchantment to happen. Thanks to the artists Karen Rietzel, Faith Purvey and Minoosh Zomorodinia for their thoughtful installations, and again to Ben Allanoff for his dedication to making art-in-nature and his additional installation made with Park staff along with volunteers from Santa Monica College and inmates from Malibu Conservation Camp #13. The playful sculpture made from cut fallen trees on Santa Monica Mountains Recreation Area property is titled Wood/Trees, and was designed and guided by Allanoff as a collaboration to amplify the creative energy and spirit of trees.


Jackie Brookner, Of Nature: A Retrospective at Wave Hill

The opening reception for Jackie Brookner: Of Nature will take place at Wave Hill on Saturday September 17th from 2 – 4:30pm. This will be the first retrospective tracing the expansive work of Jackie Brookner (1945–2015), an artist who was deeply engaged with the environment. Brookner’s groundbreaking, remediative sculptural environments were designed as ecological filters to cleanse gray water, urban storm water or agricultural runoff. This exhibition will connect the underpinnings of Brookner’s early sculptures and drawings to her ongoing exploration of materiality, which was informed by bodily touch and, particularly, the human hand. 

Spanning Brookner's entire career, the exhibition will include a selection of bronze sculptures from the 1980s and her seminal Of Earth and Cotton project, which traveled through the South in the 1990’s, including video interviews with cotton field workers by Terry Iacuzzo. Documentation of her commissioned water remediation projects in San Jose, CA; West Palm Beach, FL; Cincinnati, OH; Fargo, ND; and Salo, Finland will also be presented along with a selection of her studio drawings that were never formally exhibited.

Brookner wrote in 2010 that her first 20 years as a sculptor were “a period of introversion” that led eventually to the realization that her “work could be ‘of’ nature, rather than ‘about’ it.”  Over the next 20, she adds, “I have learned that beyond the science and the practical function, successful ecological restoration/remediation demands addressing the societal/cultural values that have allowed humans to dissociate from and be at war with the natural systems of which we are part.” 

In addition to these fundamental themes, the influence of feminism is evident in her mixed-media rubber and fabric sculptures, work that materializes the inner body. Ultimately, Brookner found her place in the vanguard of artists who are catalysts for environmental and social change. In her first public art projects, she sought out places where she could be part of a team to remediate tough ecological questions, collaborating with scientists, planners and other artists, notably Susan Leibovitz Steinman and Angelo Ciotti.

Jackie Brookner (b. 1945 Providence, RI; d. 2015 New York, NY) was based in New York City during her entire artistic career. A passionate teacher, she inspired students at Parsons The New School for Design from 1980 until the time of her death. From 2000, she created public projects for wetlands, rivers, streams and storm-water runoff that unite water remediation and public art. Throughout her career, she exhibited widely and was included in many publications on the topic of public art and environmental remediation.

Jackie Brookner: Of Nature is curated by ecoartspace NY curator Amy Lipton and Wave Hill Senior Curator Jennifer McGregor. The exhibition will run from September 13–December 4, 2016. An illustrated catalogue will accompany the exhibition. Plans are underway for the show to travel, and potential venues are currently being sought.

An interview with Jackie Brookner and ecoartspace founder Patricia Watts can be viewed here as well as her website and TedTalk interview

Wave Hill Public Programming with the exhibition includes:

September 17, 2016, 2–4:30PM, Fall Exhibition Reception, with curators’ tour at 3pm.                                                                                                                                                                        
November 11, 2016, 10:30AM–5PM, Of Nature Symposium. Celebrating the legacy of Jackie Brookner, this day of presentations and conversation will reflect on the artist’s contributions, and will spotlight environmental, socially engaging projects that artists are pursuing around the country. Featured conversations include Stacy Levy with Jennifer McGregor, and Mierle Laderman Ukeles with Amy Lipton.

For further information, a complete press release or images please contact: 
Martha Gellens 718.549.3200 x232 or marthag@wavehill.org


Enchantment at Peter Strauss Ranch


In 1999 I curated an art-in-nature exhibition at Escondido Phoenix Ranch Retreat in Escondido Canyon, Malibu. It was developed as a 10-day residency with ten artists creating site works along a mile trail. The works were reviewed in Sculpture magazine by Collette Chattopadhyay and over a three-day Memorial weekend some 300+ people came to view the installations

While at Paramount Ranch 3 art fair this past January I was thinking it would be fun to do another site project in the Santa Monica Mountains. The next thing you know, I was invited to curate at Peter Strauss Ranch in Agoura Hills by the National Park Service! Of course, I wish the budget were bigger and I could invite more artists to participate, but I think we have a sweet show, pulled together very quickly over the last two months. 

The works will remain up through the summer and we will do a closing performance on September 10th. With additional funding we can add a few more installations in June and August, fingers crossed. 

Opening reception/talk with artists on June 5th, Sunday at 2pm

Patricia Watts, curator/ecoartspace

Facebook invitation HERE