The Art of “Growing the Soil”

During the 2015 growing season, Gaining Ground participated in the Art and Agriculture Project, a collaboration between the Concord Agriculture Committee and the Umbrella’s Musketaquid Arts and Environment program. Eleven juried artists, working in a variety of media, were paired with 13 Concord farms to create works based on what they saw and experienced, witnessing the farming and work cycles and getting to know the people who make a farm run. Gaining Ground was fortunate to be paired with Cheryl Hirshman as its artist-in-residence. The final exhibit takes place at Emerson Umbrella from September 22 to November 13, and “The Art of Agriculture” panel discussion is scheduled for October 20.

I am an interdisciplinary artist, engaged in various media: painting, drawing, textiles, sculpture, photography, video and sound installation, with a little performance thrown into the mix. For the past 40 years, I have been lured by the landscape and how human intervention has molded, nurtured, and altered the natural environment.

From my first day at Gaining Ground, I was fascinated by the orchestrated efforts of the two farmers and their multitude of volunteers to “grow the soil” and prepare it to “make the crops,” a phrase used by Wendell Berry, famed writer, poet, environmentalist, educator and farmer. Inspired by Berry’s writings, my residency documented the changes in the soil through the seasons. I also observed the efforts of the thousands of volunteers who came weekly to help weed, seed, water, and harvest.

The culmination of my efforts is 1) a series of drawings dedicated to the soil 2) videos of the natural rhythms of the farm and 3) a sculptural book composed of writings, musings, and stories about farms, farming, and food written on the backs of work gloves embroidered together.

I have been so inspired by the amazing amount of love, expertise, and dedication shown by the farmers and their volunteers. I hope to continue my documentation of the work done at Gaining Ground in the coming years.