Marin County CA | 2009


This is an improvisational painting made directly onto the gallery wall with water based paints mixed with topsoil and pond water collected nearby.  At the end of the exhibit, as a performance, the work was painted over with white wall paint, disappearing brushstroke by brushstroke.


Fresh water supplies and topsoil for viable food production are diminishing, and what’s left is unevenly distributed among the world’s peoples.  The ecology, science and experiential stories of topsoil and water are inextricably linked. The health of one affects the other.  While topsoil and fresh water might not be “disappearing” per se, they are definitely being “relocated” and rendered unusable for sustaining life.

Questions include ownership and control, responsibility and morality; and how to affect a healthier, equitable future?  And where does art fit into the picture?

Historically, art’s purpose is to stimulate contemplation. It all boils down to looking and thinking.  Much current environmental art is proactive and functional. Still, to sustain meaning, it should stimulate ideas beyond a functional “product.”

This painting is my testimonial that art’s theoretical purpose remains relevant. The impetus to create it came from my innate response (over 40 years of living in this region) to the beauty of this particular place, gratitude to Marin County communities that preserve it, and my generalist’s study of ecological issues of survival and fairness. My subtext is to show the continuing relevance of abstract painting as responsive, content-laden, proactive art.  Plus, personally, it just felt good to work with hands, head and intuition, to collect and mix living topsoil with fresh water, to paint, and to think through working.

For “Terroir” exhibit curated by Patricia Watts.