The agricultural industry touches the lives of all humans. Agriculture in California represents one of the largest farming economies in the US. Over a third of the country’s vegetables and two-thirds of the country’s fruits and nuts are grown in California. Agriculture has many aspects to be celebrated and hard truths we can’t ignore. Food production has historically been the driving force for enslaving peoples and remains a contemporary framework for human exploitation. Industrial agriculture is the biggest contributor to the climate crisis. The western colonial “settling” of land has led to the removal and genocide of indigenous peoples along with their cultures and practices. Processed foods have caused unprecedented health problems including diabetes and heart disease. Policies and other socioeconomic struggles have led to the prevalence of inner city food disparities.
The far reaching effects of Californian agricultural realities, trends, aspirations, and policies can not be denied. In spite of this capitalist global reality, food remains central to human connection, enriching our daily lives and sustaining familial and cultural ritual through consumption. We believe in the collective ability to reshape our food and farming systems. We look to the creative process as a way to construct new realities, to form bonds, communicate and plan. We know art can unearth the truth and illuminate the shadows. Artists connect deeply with people, inspiring societal change. Art records and preserves human history, tells stories and passes on traditions. Artists serve as messengers of hope and ambassadors for the natural world.
In the spirit of art as connection, preservation, proclamation, response and activism we present this proposal resounding the NCECA 2022 theme Fertile Ground. This exhibition proposal features 8 artists whose work is grounded in systems of food, labor or environment. We have challenged these artists to make works for exhibit in response to connections with Northern California based agricultural organizations. Organizations chosen by invited artists may include farms, ranches, vineyards, packing plants, schools, food worker and labor unions, retailers, restaurants, indiginous communities, social justice or poverty and hunger programs.
Through these connections artists will gain new perspectives and present new visual information. Reactionary making will allow for the exploration of complex systems of culture, ethics, commerce, history, ritual, community and environment found within the realm of food production. We will connect people and the environment through art. We will speak to global narratives through personal means and bring a broad focus to the food on your plate. Our socially and culturally contemporary art will empower a viewer through bodily engagement and affect day to day societal change.
In the spirit of artistic and cultural investigation and through the merits of our past works, we hope you will help us bring A Flower Blooms in the Desert: Investigations of agricultural microcosms into fruition.
Each artist brings a varied perspective to this exhibition. Often their work is inspired by personal experience, however they also make evident their understanding that these experiences are not singular and represent larger cultural or societal issues. These artists all work to engage concepts of environment, labor or food, and often work is conveying connections between these abstractions.
While utilitarian pottery is inherently connected to meal preparation and serving, the work of Lindsay Rogers, Amanda Bury and Carole Epp push beyond this physical connection and utilize this link to speak to the larger systems at work within our contemporary food productions: plant ecology, food origins and the lessons of family dinner time.
Bridget Fairbank, Lauren Shapiro and Eliza Au make sculptural ceramic works from handmade tile. They consider the powers of individual persuasion within a community and that community’s impact on natural structures. They join people and the environment through art, ornament acting as visual stimuli and also as a vehicle for social engagement.
Nathan Murray and Juan Barroso focus on the human figure in order to explore nuanced expressions of race, culture and identity as they relate to governmental policy decisions, institutional racism and social inequity. Their works function through the humanizing lens of personal stories and cultural homage.
See their completed work below:
Inspired by https://fallingfruit.org/ , one of many crowd sourced fruit maps in the world, Bridget Fairbank chose to spend the winter months in Canada mining the internet, while eating and pondering imported fruit. Stalking images of specific plants, Fairbank virtually walked the city, in every season, imagined the smells, the sounds and the people around a fruit tree. She engaged in a long distance relationship- more personal than that with the fruit on her table, in her bowl. She researched their background, their likes and their dislikes, painted portraits of them on tile- to last an eternity- and then in Springtime, on a hot Cali day after 1,575 km of travel from snow, through a boarder and mountains to fields and endless field of olives and oranges- they met. Hear the meeting below.
It is time to remember that we live in nature and to interact with food sources as individual entities. Fairbank looks to these maps of local, self-replenishing food sources as an avenue to connect to climate and each other. Season and locality is lost in the global food market. We are blind to climate, to place, to body. She met real people who's lives are intertwined with these trees, fruits and streets. In honour of this the title of each plant is an address.
Falling Fruit Maps are crowdsourced interactive maps that show anyone and everyone where to find specific plants, they promotes urban foraging worldwide. California is ripe with free falling fruit but also the home to large agricultural mono-cultures that are the antithesis to diverse local foods. This dichotomy makes California the perfect locale to subvert how and why we interact with specific plants and foods. This interface gives people power to re-claim the food chain and re-think connections.
See below each plant in-situ, its facsimile on google earth, the ceramic installations installed at NCECA 2022 and a test of their making.
1246 P St // Orange Citrus
Ceramic, Wood, Audio + Dirt, Oranges
1672 C St // Strawberry Tree
Ceramic, Wood, Audio + Dirt
299 J Street // Washingtonia Palm
Ceramic, Wood, Audio + Dirt