Thursday, March 29, 2012

Black Oaks

The planning phase for Black Oaks finished recently, and if all goes according to plan, the first phase will be installed in the late spring. It's exciting to think about what they're doing and that there's the possibility to see if ecological restoration and human health restoration are symbiotic. The research I've read and done on healing rates in hospitals and managed care settings clearly says that exposure to green spaces can reduce stress levels, heart rates, pain medications and increase healing times. Why can't those landscapes have plants or food that can be taken internally to boost those recovery rates? I believe when you give people a stake in the world around them, and create a motivation for them to get involved, then amazing results can occur. I am hopeful that at Black Oaks that will happen, and serve as a model for other communities. 

 I've included some images of what the proposed landscape might look like. 

Main Entrance

South Entrance

Forest Garden

Kitchen Garden

Friday, March 16, 2012


I’ve been reading Shopcraft as Soulcraft by Matthew Crawford lately. It takes some time to digest. There are many great observations and ideas within it and I am often inspired to sit and think about what he has written when I am not trying to now fix things around the house as this book has inspired me to do. One line that really stands out for me follows a discourse in the chapter “To Master our Own Stuff” about advertisements that show people accessorizing objects with pre-made objects from the manufacturer – be they motorbikes or cake mixes where you “do it yourself” by adding an egg or oil to a mix. He says that “the marketers seem to grasp that it is not the product but the process that is really attractive.” If anyone is dialed into people, it’s marketing departments. Creepily so. For them to create the illusion of doing it yourself in their products there’s got to be something universally important about process and the fundamental satisfaction of mastering a skill that’s concrete – as so much of the way I know I live these days is controlled or obscured by others - ever try and jump start a Prius? This reclamation of process is made clear by the massive movements in raising food, making art and reviving artisanal industry and, I’d argue, the revolutions in the Arab World that are happening these days. Our vocabulary reflects this love of the small and involvement with the workings of our food, government and life – Authenticity, Local, Slow Food, Grassroots – these words/phrases are now so ubiquitous that their meanings are becoming hazy – as happened to “sustainable” and “organic.” As ever, I digress. I relate deeply to the importance of process – in my own art, design and life. This process piece and giving folks the tools to engage the world, when the traditional means for doing so have been dismantled, is a large part of my business/artistic vision. The projects I feel the deepest sense of connection to are those that all have underpinnings in empowering people to understand landscape process and dynamics. With that understanding they can then apply their own learning/artistic process within that ecological framework – through the plants they choose, how they adapt (to) the spaces, and how they work them into their everyday lives. It’s truly compelling to me to see how different people engage the world and to see the beauty that emerges when they do so collaboratively through a mastery of awareness and deliberate intention. 

The following photos are from some of my more ephemeral process pieces while I was living in Baltimore and show some of my early attempts to engage my ecological context. 

The Ice Faces are from a piece titled "Chance Mandalas" and were made from ice mixed with Lime powder to neutralize the acidity in a stream - for a short time - just behind John's Hopkins.

The maze in the photo is from me walking barefoot to create the pattern in the snow....

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The Tarriance

Dan Snow wrote a few days ago to let me know the proposal we submitted for the stone and medicinal herb installation at the Central Oregon Community College was accepted! We'll be going to Bend, Oregon to install it in August.

Here is the text for the original proposal - written by Dan and me: 

My desire is to assemble a collection of unique stone
features, set amidst plantings of medicinal herbs and
flowers, to contrast the surrounding hardscape and compliment
the architectural elements of the building.

Two naturally smooth-contoured stones, 1-3 tons in size,
will rest on cribbing constructed of rough-split, quarried
stones. The sculptural features will seem to float above
plaza surfaces, and also interact with the existing stone
wall by coming into direct physical contact with it at
precise points. One of the natural stones, and many of
the quarried stones, will lend themselves to seating.
The constructed stone elements, within the total installation,
will have singular personalities of their own
owing to their one-of-a-kind characteristics. The linear
geometry and dynamic tension of the cribbing stones
will cradle the cool serenity of the boulders’ softly-worn

The Hardiness Zone 6 plants chosen for this installation
all have medicinal properties. The plantings are located
within areas already designated for a mix of 4” plugs
and plant seed mix in the plan set for the building. The
warm microclimate created by the site’s southwest exposure
and the profusion of stone surfaces to store thermal
gain will help to sustain the plants. Incorporating healing
plants into the walk-way extends the mission of the
science library beyond its walls and provides a reflective
metaphor for those passing by. As one ascends the steps
from the road to the library, the clinical uses of the
plants become more complex. At the level nearest the
road, are those plants most commonly used in folk medicine,
the middle level hosts plants that require a more
nuanced understanding for use, and those at the top are
the most powerful and demand a thorough comprehension
of use and manufacture.

The integration of plant with the stone evolves at each
terrace level, as though in concert with a student’s
rising knowledge and understanding. At the lower level,
low-growing plants like lavender, thyme and California poppy
flourish in the beds beside the terrace. In the middle, taller
plants like elecampane and baptisia embrace the cribbing/
stone. And on the top of the terraces, the installation will be
completely integrated with plants as passionflower and codonopsis
vines twist along the crib-rails and over the feature
stone. An environment of ephemeral plants and eternal rocks
is a living metaphor for finding ones path to a profound
understanding of healing. Education is a transformative
experience. New-found awareness and resulting change will
become a reoccurring theme expressed by the sculpture in
each moment and over the span of years.

Plants create a dynamic relationship with the rock through
seasonal change, motion and texture. Springtime and summer
will see foliage growing and blooming, creating a cushioned
topography and leafy backdrop. In autumn, the skeletal
remains of stalks and vines will cast a web of shadows. In
winter, the feature stones will be capped with snow and the
voids under them turned to soft, white hollows. The look and
feel of the piece will change with the seasons.

The sculpture will have an inviting presence, attracting the
viewer’s eye to explore its details of color, form and texture,
and at the same time, offer an overall sense of welcome to
those entering the building. The piece will offer surprises
upon first visit, something a little different with each repeated
viewing, and a feeling of grounded comfort to those
who pass by it every day.

Elements of the sculpture will present a variety of shapes
and sizes, creating compliments of scale within the piece
itself and with surrounding architectural features.
I see the building entrance area as a conduit for pedestrian
traffic, a meeting place, and an island of natural beauty. It’s
my hope that the plaza terraces, steps, walls, stone features
and plantings will merge and become one holistic, environmental
art experience.