Jersey Sow, Mike Braddock's prized cow - eliza gregory
Valley Oak Leaf, Woodland CA 2021
Opening Reception: Thursday, September 8th, 6-9 pm
2nd Saturday Artists’ Reception: Saturday, September 10th, 5-8 pm
Open Studios September 10th-11th, open 10-5 pm
The magnitude of the conversation around relationship to place, sustainability, and the future of our world is hard to overstate. It’s happening all over the place. And even as we are also hurtling toward collapses of various kinds and filled with anxiety and terror, I am locating my own hope in each new pocket of conversation like this that I uncover.
I find myself getting addicted to that hope, to the act of imagining an ecological future that contains humans AND a rich diversity of other, more-than-human life. But I’m also curious—what has led people to become so out of sync with their environments? How did we get to this point in our culture where we don’t understand much at all about the physical land we live on, in and with?
This next chapter in the [Placeholder] project brings together some of the voices and conversations that I’ve been locating. Last year’s exhibition at Axis gallery in September told the story of two years of collaborations around these themes with my students in the Photography program at Sacramento State University, as well as referencing some of my reading and visual research. This year the research both coalesces and broadens, and I’ve solicited contributions from one student and four additional artists to complement my own continued experiments and reading. Those featured artists are Vicky (Chaebin) Yoon, Leigh Merrill, Travis Neel and Erin Charpentier, and Doug Dertinger.
Doug Dertinger has been an instrumental collaborator both in the classroom and outside of it over the last three years. My co-teacher in two of the three classes that created a working dialogue between professors and students, he has also been a major co-researcher, pointing me toward books and ideas that are at the center of this work. One impetus for this exhibition has been to invite the audience into Doug’s and my dialogue, and so we present some artifacts of that collaboration here.
Leigh Merrill is an artist and educator based in Dallas, Texas. Her work straddles the line between real and imagined in a way that makes us question what it is we think we normally see. She makes you feel like you are standing on quicksand, but you don’t quite notice you’re sinking because what you’re looking at is so exquisite and meticulous and painfully precise. In Garden, she asks us to think about the impossibility of our own plantings and garden aesthetics—the riot of region and plant type and care needs that we hurl together in our interior and exterior dreamscapes.
Travis Neel and Erin Charpentier—along with collaborators Daniel Phillips and Kim Karlsrud—have been transplanting mesquite trees from high desert ranches to the urban core of Lubbock, Texas. The Mesquite Mile is a social practice project that investigates social norms around gardens, ranching and human land use generally. Recreating native plant communities in an urban context and cutting curbs to manage water flow to support those plant communities becomes a social experiment that engages local government, students, volunteers, community members, artists, ranchers and land-owners. Documentation of these activities enters the gallery in lieu of a mesquite tree.
Finally, Vicky Yoon, better known to her parents as Chaebin (채빈), is a “1.5 generation” Korean American and longtime resident of the Greater Sacramento area. Her recent projects ask questions concerning the decolonization of Christianity and its expressions of faith. In florilegia, I include work she did in the fall of 2021 investigating the making of traditional Korean acorn jelly using Valley Oak tree acorns, from her backyard in the Central Valley, as an exploration of the way in which relationship to land is intergenerational, resilient and tied to human ritual.
My own work includes a bookshelf, co-curated with Doug Dertinger; a few images made while being a part of the Central Valley; and a lot of plans. This fall I will be an artist-in-residence at the Peregrine School in Davis, designing workshops that cultivate relationships to land amongst the older elementary students there (3rd-6th grade) in collaboration with school founder and garden educator Lorie Hammond. I’ll also be teaching an elective at Sac State—PHOTO 175—that takes students out into the fields to talk to a wide variety of people who think about stewardship and relationships to land. These include farmers at Cultural Roots Nursery in Winters, CA; Indigenous Californians working on restoring salmon populations in our river systems; rice growers reintroducing fry to the floodplains; and foragers who have learned to re-engage with human-plant relationships based on sustainability and sustenance. These workshops and field trips will create the foundation for publications and exhibitions to follow.
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