March 28, 2009 11 AM

Today’s observation is a little different in that I didn’t stop, sit and listen like I normally do.  Instead, I was working with a friend in the woods behind his house in Stratham.  We were cutting logs to be used to grow mushrooms at my ‘farm’.  Jim has 18 acres and we selected a tree far from site of his house and down a couple of hills – much too far to easily carry these logs, but we discovered that only after we cut the tree down.  Jim was on chainsaw duty while I carried the four-foot lengths over my shoulder to the truck.  Each walk up the hill and back took about ten minutes.

When Jim bought his house and land, all of the surrounding acres were all forest until one day a few years ago a developer suddenly started clearing the land.  Soon his house overlooked a subdivision of a dozen, cookie-cutter, bigger-than-reasonable houses.  My walk back and forth to the truck took me fairly close to the property line and I found myself examining several of these houses from the backside.  One family appeared to have kids as apparent from all of the plastic toys spread about the back yard.  Another family had a dog.  Another family liked to grill.  Each house looked the same save for the lonely items left out in the yard or on the porch.  I wondered to myself how much the backyards actually get used. 

The site of these houses troubled me.  Then, at once I realized what disturbed me (besides the obvious).  The forest was full of trees.  It had birds, broken branches, and leaves.  The entire forest floor was covered in leaves.  Abruptly, the forest ended at the subdivision as manicured lawns took over.  This stark demarcation between natural and cultivated struck me as absurd. Bleak houses seemed plopped onto the land with no relation to the landscape, surrounded by manicured lawns, pavement and stop signs and absent trees.  It reminded me of the surreal views from mountaintops where I’ve sat overlooking Phoenix, Arizona marked by green lawns and trees – a sea of green in a vast expanse of desert brown.  The brown and yellow representing fauna and flora that have evolved over millennia to thrive with little water against the green of humankind’s hubris, forcing a fashionable landscape into existence in a place it couldn’t survive without stealing the water from tributaries hundreds of miles away.

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I finally finished putting together the trash mosaic collages from my visit to EKES last month.  Each grade had a curriculum specific them:
Penguins, Butterflies, Sea creatures, the Globe, Plants and Animals and Endangered Species (in order k-5th).

 

4th grades collages of plants & animals.

4th grades collages of plants & animals.

 

 

 

Check out the rest of the photos here.

working on Give Plastic the Boot

working on Give Plastic the Boot

Ok, so, I don’t usually get too worked up about what other people write about my work in their own blogs, but I just felt like responding to this one: ecofriend.

The author writes about the Dark Side of my work:

“Once the shoe has been exhibited in various places, keeping it intact would be hard for the eco-artist. Sooner or later the bottles and the plastic bags will eventually reach the nearest landfill and this time in more concentration.”

What?

The piece is quite solid and not susceptible to falling apart. It was actually designed as a permanent piece of art for the Timberland Company, thus should not be returned to the waste stream in any concentration. The bottles were removed from the waste stream.  But, if it were to be discarded, it is entirely recyclable. I would expect the boot to be shredded, pelletized and recycled into more plastic rather than sit in a landfill. In my region of NH, tens of thousands of plastic bottles bypass recycling daily and end up in the local landfill. My work strongly advocates for reducing our consumption of these single-use convenience items and increasing our recycling of the plastic that is used. I really do take great care to create work that has the least impact possible.  

I wonder about this a little more: hmmm… if I recycled the plastic by using it as art material, I actually save the energy of the whole recycle/remanufacture process to begin with.  Would that be even more environmentally sound?