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.


Amy Lipton interviews Mary Mattingly and Jean Shin at the Rubin Foundation

On October 17, 2018 Amy Lipton interviewed artists Mary Mattingly and Jean Shin at the Rubin Foundation’s 8th floor gallery as part of the current exhibition Sedimentations: Assemblage as Social Repair

From the Rubin Foundation press release: “The title of the exhibition alludes to the late artist Robert Smithson’s essay “A Sedimentation of the Mind: Earth Projects,” in which he associates the shifting of the earth with flows of thought, positing that the “mind and earth are both in a constant state of erosion…ideas decompose into stones of unknowing, and conceptual crystallizations break apart into deposits of gritty reason.” The featured artists employ strategies of reuse in their art making, incorporating found and repurposed materials, from accumulation and assemblage to the construction of landscapes and discrete objects. The works reference a multitude of timescales and politics. - Sara Reisman

Included in the exhibition is MierleLaderman Ukeles, NYC Sanitation Department Artist in Residence since 1976. The original plan was to interview Ukeles during the exhibition since ecoartspace has been in a conversation with Mierle to include her in our video archive. However, she was unable to attend, so Lipton decided to focus on Ukeles' work in her interview with Mary Mattingly and Jean shin instead. Together they discussed Ukeles art-as-maintenance manifesto and in particular her 1979 performance work “Touch Sanitation,” and her 1983 work “Social Mirror." Lipton also focused the discussion on the viability of such projects that require long term maintenance (site workers, ongoing care, repair, etc.). She asked Mattingly and Shin if maintenance issues also applied to their own work. The answer was a resounding yes. Both artists are based in New York City and have done substantial long-term public art projects, so the lineage from Mierle Ukeles practice is present and influential.

Mary Mattingly founded a floating food forest on a barge in New York called Swale. Lipton had the opportunity to visit Mary aboard Swale before it’s completion in 2016 in Verplanck NY. Now floating on New York’s waterways, this important project is considered a community resource artwork. The barge is 130-by-40-foot and contains a forest garden of edible and medicinal plants, including blackberries, blueberries, strawberries, dandelions, stinging nettle, comfrey, chamomile and more. Filtered rainwater and water from New York’s rivers hydrate the plants. Visitors are welcome to come and pick items for free, and are also encouraged to bring food items of their own. It’s illegal to grow public food in public spaces in New York City, so Mattingly keenly moved her project to the water.    

Jean Shin makes site-specific installations that transform everyday objects into elegant expressions of identity and community engagement. Her work is distinguished by a labor-intensive process and immersive environments that reflect collective issues that we face as a society. As an accomplished artist practicing in the public realm, she also realizes large-scale, site-specific permanent installations commissioned by major public agencies on the federal level (US General Services Administration) as well as local city and arts for transit programs (New York City’s Metropolitan Transit Authority and Percent for the Art programs, etc.). Shin recently completed a landmark commission for New York City MTA’s Second Avenue Subway at the 63rd Street station. 

Below are some of the questions Lipton asked Mattingly and Shin during their live interview:

Thinking about the title Sedimentations, my thoughts are about geologic time and the larger picture regarding our eco system and its potential healing. How do you think about sedimentations?

How do you see your work in regards to the exhibition title of “social repair”? Is working with community an important part of social repair for each of you?

Regarding issues of re-use and waste in your artwork, -what really is waste when it comes to food, as opposed to mining and resource extraction? 

How working collaboratively with community transforms waste from commodities into art and consciousness raising?

A video recording of this interview will soon be available as part of the ongoing ecoartspace  interview archive. See HERE

From Left to Right: Jean Shin, Amy Lipton, Mary Mattingly and Sara Reisman


ecoartspace video archive

Over the last decade, ecoartspace has captured twenty-eight video interviews with pioneering artists who address environmental issues through the visual arts. The first interview took place in Delhi, India, with ecological artist Mary Miss, who was there to create a site-work in a historic park. ecoartspace founder, Patricia Watts, who was also in Delhi presenting a paper at the 48c symposium, invited Miss to do an interview while they sat amidst her artwork Roshanara's Net, a temporary garden of medicinal plants—ayurvedic herbs, trees and bushes. The following year, in 2009, Watts interviewed three more artists who were included in her show Terrior at the Marin French Cheese Factory in Petaluma, California including Mark Brest van Kempen, Judith Selby Lang, and Philip Krohn. The following year in 2010, Watts interviewed New York artist's Christy Rupp and Jackie Brookner; Amy Lipton interviewed Patricia Johanson. In 2011, while traveling in New Mexico, Watts interviewed Dominique Mazeaud and Chrissie Orr. In 2012, Watts interviewed Susan Liebovitz Steinman in Berkeley and Bonnie Sherk in San Francisco. She also flew up to Seattle that same year to interview Buster Simpson and Beverly Naidus. And, Amy Lipton interviewed Betsy Damon in New York. In 2015, in the East Village, New York Watts and Lipton interviewed Mel Chin on his work with soils for the upcoming publication Field to Palette. And, in 2017, Watts went on a cross country driving trip and interviewed Roy Staab in Wisconsin, Billy Curmano in Minnesota, Frances Whitehead in Ohio, Basia Irland in New Mexico, Kim Abeles and Sant Khalsa in California, and flew to Philadelphia to interview Diane Burko. This year, Watts had the opportunity to go abroad and interviewed Ruri in Iceland, and Tim Collins and Reiko Goto in Scotland. Over the summer Watts also interviewed Mags Harries and Lajo Heder in Boston; and, this fall Amy Lipton interviewed Mary Mattingly and Jean Shin in New York.

These interviews are approximately two hours in length and cover information on the artists youth, inspirations, education, mentors, and summaries of all their major projects. They can be made available for research upon request and are also available to be edited for special exhibitions for a fee.

Edited video excerpts with Patricia Johanson, Jackie Brookner, Buster Simpson, Bonnie Sherk, and Diane Burko can be viewed online via Youtube HERE.


Curatorial Residencies

In April and in June this year, I've attended two curatorial residencies that have given birth to two new projects for ecoartspace. In April, I spent three weeks in Ireland at Cill Rialaig in Ballinskelligs on the Celtic Sea of County Kerry. I set out to write an essay on my perceptions of nature over fifty years, considering childhood memories of my grandparents farm in Missouri, and driving Route 66 from Arizona to Missouri each summer to visit them. I wanted to consider what were the baseline shifts in nature that I had experienced in my lifetime. However, there was something about this place, on the wild Atlantic, one of eleven certified dark sky reserves in the world, which had me thinking on a much larger scale. I quickly scrapped my idea for an essay and decided to write a book instead. I layed out twelve chapters and began filling them in. The book also has to do with my relationship with nature, however, I decided I wanted to share distinct environmental concepts that I've found transformational in my own life. So, I created a framework for contemplating one's relationship with the natural world that references artists work. I also had a deadline for an exhibition proposal while I was there, for another curatorial residency, and decided that the book could also be the framework for an exhibition, with artists' installations providing spaces for contemplation for the concepts in the book. I'm not giving much information here, obviously, because I did not complete the book in those three weeks. I'm planning to continue writing it this year, with the goal to finish and go to print by the end of 2019. I'm also seeking a venue for the exhibition for 2020. The title for both the book and the exhibition is Epochal Change

Cill Rialaig is a pre famine village that layed in ruins, abandoned for nearly half a century. A former publisher Noelle Campbell-Sharp and a local community group bought the site, set up a Trust and began rebuilding it as an artist's retreat in 1992. Each cottage has it's own kitchen and living room, separate bedroom and bathroom. The views are spectacular. I highly recommend applying.

My second residency was in June for three weeks at Marble House Project in Dorset, Vermont. Much to my surprise, I was selected as one of approximately 56 people from over 650 applicants for 2018. For this residency, while continuing to develop the concepts for my book, Epochal Change, I decided to focus on yet another book. It occurred to me while in Ireland, that between me and my ecoartspace partner Amy Lipton, we have curated over fifty exhibitions and dozens of programs. ecoartspace was conceived in 1997 after I had worked on a museum in development on the creative process in Santa Monica, California. I curated my first ecological exhibition in 1998, titled Art and Nature, and in 1999 curated Escondido Phoenix right before meeting Lipton in Germany to view the exhibition Natural Reality. During that trip we decided to collaborate from both coasts to curate art and nature exhibitions. It has been over twenty years now that ecoartspace was conceived and in 2019, it will be twenty years that Amy and I have collaborated as nonprofit partners. Amy and I  have each selected 20 exhibitions that we are writing about for the book, and will also include information on all of our programs and lectures. During my residency in Vermont, I was able to scan exhibition photographs and invitations, and begin developing text from archived press releases and blog posts. Publication is planned for early 2020.

Patricia Watts, founder/curator, ecoartspace

Marble House Project is a multi-disciplinary artist residency program that offers both individual and family residencies, as well as culinary and curatorial residencies. They operate from April through October, with six sessions lasting three weeks each. All residents live under the same roof, and have separate studios on the grounds. There is a marble quarry swimming pool and barn for yoga and events. And, there is an organic garden that you can harvest from to make meals together each night. Idyllic.


Vast and Vanishing: Diane Burko at Rowan University

For the exhibition Vast and Vanishing, ecoartspace was commissioned by Rowan University Art Gallery in Glassboro, New Jersey to create a short video of painter Diane Burko discussing her glacial paintings. Included were excerpts from an interview conducted by ecoartspace founder Patricia Watts with Burko at her home/studio in Philadelphia in November 2017. Diane Burko's paintings portray the art and science of climate change, as well as offer the artist a form of activism in making her art. The exhibition runs March 8th through April 21st and is curated by Mary Salvante, Rowan University Art Gallery, Director.

Link to ecoartspace video archive HERE


Contemplating OTHER Installation

  Brigitta Varadi

  Linda Gueste

  Alicia Escott


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