Seed Library Proposal with Ellie Irons

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We are drawn to the range of resilient life forms found in neglected urban and suburban landscapes. the contrast between carefully planned and maintained landscapes and spontaneous spaces provides a filter through which to contemplate questions of wilderness versus civilization, biodiversity versus “nativeness”, and the idealized versus the “natural” .

Our proposed project looks closely at plants that tend to live in close association with dense human populations. Growing where others can’t or won’t, the plants held in our seed bank are those best adapted to live in the long shadow we throw on the landscape. Recasting these “weedy” species as companion plants for Anthropocene age, the project draws parallels between the characteristics of successful spontaneous plants and patterns of human population growth and flux in globalized cities. We are encouraging viewers to look at the overlooked and to be aware of how our value systems interact with both humans and non-humans.

We would like to create an interactive library of seeds gathered from wild-growing plants in the Bronx. Anyone can take seeds to plant or add to the library.

It will include:

1. A central piece of furniture built largely from locally scavenged materials. This would be a card-catalog style structure with many small drawers where the seeds are organized and labelled for easy access. A peaked roof will symbolically connect it to the outdoors.

2. A “work table” with envelopes and supplies for adding seeds to the library, plant ID books, a map of the Bronx with sites where we gathered seeds indicated.

3. Photo and video documentation of our process of gathering the seeds.

4. Live plants in pots on the table, at window sills, and on the floor.

5. A project website including an online catalog of available seeds as well as further documentation of their gathering. We will encourage visitors who take seeds to email us photos of their growth.

Photoshop

I usually use Photoshop to make sketches for proposals, and I enjoy some of the in process views. Here are some screenshots….

The top two photos are from when I was making the sketch in the previous post. I found images of weeds online and pasted them into the file before shrinking them down, erasing the background, and integrating them into the image. But just when I press paste, they look like billboards and oversized jungle plants.

The two photos below that show my process for Herbarium. I took photos of real weeds laid on white paper. In order to increase the image resolution for the entire plant (so that I could blow them up big without becoming too grainy), I took multpile close-up shots and stitched them together in Photoshop. I then color-corrected and erased the background, and imported the file into Illustrator in order to tile the print across standard size paper so I could create the entire thing with my cheapo desktop inkjet.

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Proposal

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I propose to create a group of 3 to 5 giant flowerpots sunk into the ground, the largest of which could be anywhere from 8 to 15 feet in diameter and 2 to 3 feet tall. These would actually be low, circular walls, and the bottom of the pot would be implied. The walls could also function as public seating.

The lawn would continue to be maintained as usual outside of the flowerpots, but the interior space should be left un-maintained, a wild space for the duration of the exhibition. If possible, I would love for some of the pots to contain existing trees or shrubs.

My material would be concrete, and I would stain it to mimic a terracotta color. I would like to add recycled concrete aggregate to my concrete mix to benefit both the environment and my budget. At the close of the exhibition, I will bring these forms to a local recycling facility to be turned back into aggregate for reuse.

My expenses will include concrete, recycled concrete aggregate, stain, plywood for building forms, and transportation of materials. This would be a relatively affordable project using humble materials, and I’m sure I could realize it within the allotted budget.

These whimsical sculptures invert what normally happens in flowerpots: here, domestication happens on the outside of the pot while attention and maintenance are withheld from the interior area, allowing additional plant species to take root and reveal their potential. These discrete islands of wilderness will take shape over time and the seasons, recalling Alan’s Sonfist’s Time Landscape.

This installation will act as a foil to the domesticated areas of the park, a pocket of wilderness and biodiversity, encouraging viewers to look at the overlooked and to be aware of the complex wilderness growing in the peripheries. It draws attention to what is undervalued from our daily urban environment, how our value systems interact with both humans and non-humans, and, as Gary Snyder wondered, “where do we start to resolve the dichotomy of the civilized and the wild?”

I have been working with weeds over the past year, and I am looking forward to realizing this new idea, which I believe builds on my recent work. I am excited by the economy of this gesture and the way it plays with scale.

IN-SITE Proposal

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As an artist, I am interested in the intersection of nature and culture, including the way that we humans represent plant-life in illustrations, advertisements and logos, as well as for decorative purposes. The many representations of nature are, in my estimation, about as numerous and varied as real plant species. They range from the most simple geometric shapes to detailed illustrations and photographs, sometimes referencing existing or even imaginary species. As we are increasingly separated from direct contact with wilderness, these representations can sometimes stand in for the real thing. I’ve been playing with this idea in projects such as the fabric sculpture Canopy (2010), my collage series Field Studies (2011), as well as my recent public sculpture on Randall’s Island, New Growth (2013).

I propose to create a conceptual project in which I collect and scan real leaves from downtown South Orange and the park area as well as representations of leaves also found in the downtown area, such as those printed on packaging in stores, signs, on clothing fabric, decorative fake plants, elements of logos, architectural elements reminiscent of plants, etc. I will organize these “specimens” into a digital herbarium in the form of a website with accompanying information about each leaf (photos of the leaves as they were found, along with information such as location, context, size, and species).

I will also enlarge several of these images to approximately 2 feet tall (quite possibly larger) and wheatpaste them onto walls in public space throughout the downtown area. A QR code symbol will accompany each leaf which will lead viewers to the project website. This will function as a dispersed “natural” history display.

Wheatpasting is a temporary way to adhere paper to an outdoor wall. It’s made of water, flour, and sugar. It can last for months in an outdoor location. Wheatpasted images can be removed with hot water.

QR Codes are square black and white bar codes which can be scanned using smart phones. These codes can have web addresses embedded in them. Scanning the code will take you to the website.

Images attached:

1. Examples of leaves and leaf imagery found in downtown South Orange.

2 & 3. Digital collage of wheatpaste installation for one leaf.

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Upvan Art Festival – Brainstorming

I have been looking at pictures of Thane online, and I am interested in these square, concrete barriers around tree beds:

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Visually, I am interested in the contrast between the organic lines of the trees and the hard-edged, geometric structure of the barriers. Conceptually, I am interested in what the barriers signify: “This is a space for a tree, separate from human space. Also, this nature was put here for your enjoyment and recreation. This is a destination. This place has been cared for. This place is beautiful and civilized.”

In general, I am interested in the relationship between people and their environment. I am also interested in how we mentally categorize different kinds of spaces and places. Some are valued and maintained, seen as “destinations”. Other kinds of spaces are purely functional, not aesthetic. Others still can be called “junkspace”: a place that is overlooked, unused, untended, and thus host to numerous extraordinary possibilities.

I am interested in finding some trees that are a little bit outside of the main recreational area of Thane and Upvan lake, in spaces that have not been designated for this purpose. I would like to construct a barrier for each tree I choose, inspired by the ones I see in the photos above. I would like to use concrete if possible, so if I could hire a small crew to help me make some small, low structures, that would be great. The structures can be temporary, if necessary.

By doing so, these “junkspaces” would become destinations by virtue of having public art placed there, and the trees would get more attention too. I would like to take this a step further by creating Foursquare.com venues online for each tree, which visitors could vitually “check into” and leave photos and comments. There is also a kind of pun here: The barriers are square-shaped, and maybe I could have four of them!

Once I am in Thane, I might get some more ideas to add to this project: possibly some kind of adornment for the low concrete structures, or possibly some kind of workshop organized about how to care for city trees.

I know there was recently a tree census in Thane. Maybe this project would help to raise awareness that all of the trees are beneficial to the people. I also see there are some articles online about illegal tree cutting. So this project would have an environmental message, and also deal with how we use and think about public space in relationship to nature.

Mod Podge

In case you were thinking of doing an image transfer onto balsa wood using Mod Podge, I tested three different methods for you.

https://i2.wp.com/distilleryimage11.s3.amazonaws.com/6d4faf1c6baa11e2b07922000a1fbd9b_7.jpg

Method One: Inkjet print coated with Elmers; Balsa coated with Mod Podge. Smoosh together and leave overnight.

Result: Worked fine but it didn’t look quite right until it was dry, so I didn’t realize it turned out until a few days later. Also, the Elmers warps the wood. The colors are bright and the glue is glossy.

Method Two: Inkjet print coated with Mod Podge. Smoosh to balsa and leave overnight.

Result: FAIL.

Method Three: Laserjet print (from a photocopy at Staples) coated with Mod Podge. Smoosh to balsa and leave overnight.

Result: Worked fine. Colors are less bright than with Elmers. Matte finish. No warping. Image seems to be more a part of the wood rather than something that sits on top of it.

FLOW Proposal

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Last year I made a series of landscape collages, titled Field Studies. These collages were composed of thousands of images of trees that I cut out of New York and New Jersey phone book ads. These tree images ranged from the simplest geometric abstractions to detailed color photos. By amassing these diverse representations of nature into a varied but coherent landscape, I was making what could be called subliminal forests of New York.

For the FLOW program, I am interested in selecting 5 to 8 images of trees from local advertisements, enlarging them, and integrating them into the real landscape of New York on Randall’s Island. I envision them as two-dimensional shapes to be installed in the park south of Field 71. They will be 4 to 7 feet tall and made from weather-proofed wood, anchored in the ground by concrete. I will consult with the VLA to make sure that I am not violating any copyright with my selection of images.

The fake trees will provide similar benefits to park-goers as real trees do: shade and aesthetic appeal. The sculptures will also create a visual relationship to existing trees. However, the use of chemically-treated lumber for a sculpture of a tree is clearly ironic, using a similar conceptual mechanism as Magritte’s famous Treachery of Images, but adding another layer: the identity of the material. This project would call attention to the artifice and design of parks as some of the only “natural” settings one encounters in a city. As Robert Smithson wrote, “The authentic artist cannot turn his back on the contradictions that inhabit our landscape.”

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The Invisible Life of the Park

Application submitted to the Black Rock Arts Foundation last night. In collaboration with Patricia Dominguez.

Robert Smithson wrote, “The authentic artist cannot turn his back on the contradictions that inhabit our landscape.” We would like to create a series of three virtual sculptures that tease out the paradoxes inherent in Central Park about the relationship between people, the city, and nature.

In collaboration with Virtual Public Art Project, digital forms will be mapped onto the great lawn of Central Park, anchored by GPS coordinates. These virtual objects can be seen by those with the Layar app for iPhone and Android. Participants will be able to take pictures of themselves in relation to these objects and share them on social media sites. In addition to more traditional publicity methods, we will print stickers with QR codes pointing to a project website and stick them in the vicinity of our chosen sites.

The first of the three will be a group of digital backdrops in front of which park visitors can pose. The backdrops will be images of ecosystems such as jungle, desert, burnt forest, and more, much like the dioramas in the nearby Natural History Museum.  The second project will be a digital flock of sheep that will change locations every day as they “graze” within the park. This references an actual flock which lived there until 1934 and the shift in land use from productivity to leisure. The third is a monumental installation: a grid of identical, 11-foot tall evergreens stretching over the entire park, intersecting the current naturalistic landscape design of the park with one that is mathematical and controlled.

This series of sculptures surreptitiously colonizes Central Park, a community space and tourist destination where it would normally be difficult for emerging artists to install a public artwork due to city regulations and red tape. The sculptures require the viewer’s participation and bodily movement to experience, complete, and document the sculptures. Furthermore, this project naturally will extend to include communities on social networking sites as viewers take photos on-site and upload them to these sites, tagging them so they are easily searchable. We will create a dedicated website to aggregate these images and connect participants.

These crowdsourced images will be our primary documentation of the project. The act of photographing the sculptures and the park is a creative one; the viewer will be making aesthetic decisions and reifying the virtual species. The viewer will also be acting as a naturalist, in keeping with other common activities of the park, such as birdwatching, landscape painting, and mushroom hunting. We also hope to host such events to promote interaction further. We are thinking about a digital scavenger hunt as well as a landscape painting workshop.