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 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