Vegetable Lamb of America is inspired by the the myth that sheep grew on trees, which began in the sixteenth century and lingered until it was debunked by the book The Vegetable Lamb of Tartary in the late ninteenth century. This fanciful notion came in to being because cotton was so exotic that the only way Europeans could explain the bolls, which looked to them like sheep wool, was to imagine sheep that grew on trees and leaned down at night to drink water.
The sheep trees could be seen as metaphors for how Americans tend to create imaginary histories about the foundation of our country. Cotton was a primary industry that allowed the US to become the global power that it is today. Our entire structure, culture and body politic are infinitely weakened and deranged by ignoring the true history of how this rise to power occurred. Today, new versions of “sheep trees”—in the form of “alternative facts” or the like—seem to exist almost everywhere in our culture
Industrialization would not be systemic today if our our forefathers had not strived to increase capital by reducing labor and increasing the output of many commodities—especially textiles. The cotton gin was one of the most important inventions in history, and there is a direct thread from that machine to the industrial capitalism that we know today, where textiles are so ubiquitous that they are disposable, yet inmates still pick cotton for free in Louisiana.
My “Vegetable Lamb of America” literally grows out of its industrial past. Inspired by Zug Island, a native American burial ground south of Detroit, that was later industrialized by U.S. Steel, I used curved, tapered steel trusses to form tree branches and roots. On Zug Island, peregrine falcons roost on the tops of gantry cranes and lake sturgeon spawn in the river-bottom coal beds. Zug’s symphonic industrial structures are magnificent to witness from the Detroit River, yet its toxic fumes permeate the air for miles, befouling the the humans and animals living in its snare.
An e-catalog is forthcoming about the project Vegetable Lamb of America.
Many thanks to the Muskegon Museum of Art and their fabulous staff, Shannon Wong, Scott Berels, and Jon Brumit for their assistance.
Cloak and Dagger
Cloak and Dagger
This series of garments is inspired by a scene in the documentary Citizen 4. In particular, I was both horrified and delighted to watch as Edward Snowden covered his head with a pillow as he entered username and password information into his computer to avoid himself or his surroundings being surveilled either by his computer camera but also to avoid having his hands, fingers or keystrokes recorded by hotel or other video cameras in the vicinity.
It was instantly horrifying to imagine how many other precautions one must take to protect privacy or information as we go through our daily lives but exciting and empowering at the same time to understand the power of a simple object -a pillow in this case- in the context of an anti-surveillance or privacy initiative. So while carrying the scene in my mind, I began researching alternative methods for engagement in our digital world while maximizing privacy.
I found an article by Micah Lee (a computer specialist who helped political investigative journalist Glenn Greenwald protect his computer / information) entitled “Passphrases That You Can Memorize—But That Even the NSA Can’t Guess” and I followed the instructions. I threw the dice five times, recorded the sequence of numbers, and then repeated this seven times. Then, looking at a dice-ware chart with random words associated with different numerical sequences, I had created my first simple and truly random encryption password. My first password was “CORBEL HA BIGOT ACCRA AGEE ISLAM AEGIS” and I felt ever so slightly hopeful and inspired. Hopeful that I could *actually* protect some of my own information, but also inspired because of the relationship of an analog process that would inform some digital goings-on. As a maker of things, this was absolutely critical in helping me understand both encryption but also the need for balance between analog / real-world happenings and digital / screen-world activities.
Shortly thereafter I realized that the passwords could be woven with a six harness loom, or even a four harness loom with slight modification to both the weaving and the dice-ware processes. Harnesses on looms lift strings in particular orders and sequences and the up down / on off binary has long been exploited in Jacquard Looms and their use of punch cards. So many other early proto-digital technologies existed also, CNC machines, automated machines or robots, and the like. So I generated more dice-ware patterns and converted them to sample weaving patterns, added some stabilizing patterns to help hold it all together, and created my first password scarf.
So, circling back around, the thought occurred to me to somehow conflate the pillow-head password-scarf dice-ware encryption into some types of clothing, imagining that Snowden, Greenwald -or anyone concerned with privacy for that matter- should have a special wearable anti-surveillance device ready at a moments’ notice. And since garments serve as protection in so many different ways, why not migrate the woven passwords into some full scale wearables, conflating various types of protection and creating a new era throwback "Cloak" for our digital "Cloak and Dagger" environment.
menu mist ob guard glove douce bantu
This garment is based on a period western shirt where there was an extra front panel to protect against steer horns. To use this garment unfasten the magnets at the top of the front panel and pull over head. There are two openings in the accordion structure for hands and phone.
TangleMouse" was built after meeting with a neurologist who focuses on alzheimer's research. Mostly I was interested in the disconnect between having a largely functional brain and body that are overwhelmed by the disease. The armature has scans of the tangles formed by amino acids in the diseased brain cut into it. The amino acids multiply in a patterned structure, invisible to the eye. The neck is based on the model the neurologist uses to talk about the patterns found within the tangles. Mice are used in testing. I read A Thousand Joys, A Thousand Sorrows, a book about a woman's path with her husband's experience with alzheimers in preparation for the work.
Yard / Zone / Field
I live part of the year in Banglatown, Detroit and find inspiration in my constantly changing neighborhood. Detroit is home to the typical dynamic fusion of naturally occurring flora, surviving domestic gardens amidst re-greening spaces, increasing pheasant and fox populations and heaping doses of unsupervised dumping.
Banglatown, however, is home to the peculiar blend of creative re-use of scavenged resources, especially by non-artists, coupled with significant language barriers, giving rise to the importance of various adaptive and improvised forms of translation and communication.
My work explores the spaces between representation and abstraction, order and disorder, architecture and animal and between zoned or territoried. Paper and tape, fabric and thread reflect my philosophical imperatives fusing impermanence, degradability and adaptivity.
No Touch's House
Dflux House; Lawley St
Fox is based on Red Fox native to Southern MI
Neighborhood; Klinger St
Back of Storefront
Ring Neck Pheasant above Khan's House and Dflux
False Evidence Appearing Real
Wormwood Bones/Feral Fade
Having shadowed and made reference to research by botanists, spiritualists, and string theorists for my work, I came across Mary Mycio's book Wormwood Forest. The word for Chernobyl in Russian is wormwood -- thus the horrors of radiation wrought on humanity by this nuclear disaster may have been prophesied. Yet few could have forecast that this irradiated site would become a refuge for flora and fauna. It seems that when humans are removed nature cures itself, adapts and prospers in ways unimaginable.
While nature may heal itself, it retains an imprint of human, particularly post-industrial, intervention. I am curious as to how this trace appears in the feral cats that roam Chernobyl. In Wormwood Bones; Feral Fade bright orange skin (dyed with turmeric, a health-giving spice that is not colorfast so that the dye fades, mimicking the shelf life of radiation) shifts to nearly white while the leaves of the wormwood plant slowly overtake normal skeletons. The dualities of strengths, vulnerability, of adaptation to unnatural circumstances that is and has become much of life continues to fascinate.
Ark of Chernobyl
"The Baroque refers not to an essence but rather to an operative function, to a trait. It endlessly produces folds… The Baroque trait twists and turns its folds, pushing them to infinity, fold over fold, one upon the other. The Baroque fold unfurls all the way to infinity… The multiple is not only what has many parts but also what is folded in many ways" (Deleuze The Fold: Leibnitz and the Baroque)
Many of my works explore flora and fauna and imagined results of the impacts of contemporary ecological conditions upon them. In this work I'm exploring the imagined results of the impacts of defunct science where the four classical elements (earth, air, fire and water) imprint themselves using the philosophy of "the fold" on the skeleton of a domestic dog.
Water and Air vs Earth and Fire
They were only shadowy figures to my unaided eye, like wave functions of large deer-like creatures that had not yet collapsed into a specific species. p.111 Wormwood Forest
Having shadowed and made reference to ongoing research by botanists, spiritualists, and string theorists for my work, I came across Mary Mycio's Wormwood Forest as part of my research. I was struck, much as I was by mid-nineties reports of the malformed frogs in Bock's Pond Minnesota, by the thriving populations of Roe deer, among other species, within this post-industrial, post-human wildlife refuge we most commonly refer to as a disaster area.
Father protecting Son
Son with Mother and Daughter
Son with Mother and Daughter
Mother and Daughter
Mother protecting Baby Daughter and watching Son
Mother watching Son
Paeonia high healious
In Paeonia high healious, a genetically modified flowering plant, based on a typical peony, is endowed with high-heeled shoe stamen. Peonies were chosen for this larger-than-life sculptural installation because this flower is symbolic of abundance and prosperity in many cultures, and these qualities are what I wish for in our world. Rendered from silk and burlap, the constructed plant serves simultaneously as skin and structure, trapping energy and acting as a metaphorical force field, giving an object form but in a way where it is inherently vulnerable.
Invisible Healing World
Bock's Pond:Para-Sites / Para-Noids
Bock's Pond:Para-Sites / Para-Noids
Roots Grow Both Ways
Starting with scientific theories of how disruptions occur in nature Sarah Wagner found herself interred in a subterranean root world constructed of silk and burlap. Like disrupted cells, the growing world that Wagner creates has no predictable end. Roots dangle in mid-air, stretching and groping like the air roots of a baobab. Or, perhaps they have not so much inertia, and instead silently suck moisture and nutrients from the atmosphere. These transitional subjects are as much being as becoming. The weight and gravity pull and worry the twine down to thread, simultaneously proving their existence as they erase themselves – asking us to will ourselves from the effects of gravity.
Roots Grow Both Waysis the newest chapter in Wagner's epic story, the Invisible Healing World, giving form to a parallel universe with the power to cure the woes of our world. IHW began with So Far SoGood, where transparent canary scouts perch warning us of danger while delighting in spirit, in extravagantly enlarged floating botanical medicinal specimens in I assert: Theobroma Cocoa, where the mother of chocolate exploded into moving pods and flowers, and the haunting silken skins of multi-limbed frogs, from Bock's Pond:Para-Sites / Para-Noids gave ghost form to this sentinel species.