2012 Jack Hanley Gallery, NY
2013 Pasadena Museum of California Art, Pasadena, CA
2014 Carleton College, Northfield, MN
2017 El Dorado Arts Council, Placerville, CA
Intrigued by science journalist Michael Pollan’s description of rare, odd apples from the Noah’s Ark of apples in his book Botany of Desire, I visited the Plant Genetics Resource Unit (PGRU) in Geneva, New York, a joint USDA/Cornell University project. The reason for this vast living collection… unknown to most people, edible apples cannot be planted from seed, they must be grafted from existing trees, thus keeping the variety literally “alive” to save it. At the PGRU, buds are collected from apple trees all over the world, then grafted onto dwarf rootstock and matured until fruiting.
My nine sculptures are based on examples of varieties from PGRU. While the size and volume are configured the original apple, high fire glazes playfully allude to various hues of yellows to reds, russets to blushes on the apples. I returned in March 2011 to photograph genetic diversity in the form of the apple trees at the Cornell University-NYS Agricultural Experiment Station with apple breeder Dr. Susan K. Brown. She plants out thousands of seed “sisters” from each of her cross breeding of two apple trees. Over the course of six to seven years, Brown leaves the trees unpruned, to grow wild.
The diversity of tree architecture from one cross is mind-blowing, as well as the clones used for genetic material to breed with. Assisted by professional photographers Ken Marchionno and Mary Wingfield and grip crew from Rochester Institute of Technology, I shot these trees against 20 x 30 foot white muslin backdrops to catch the beautiful, leafless silhouettes and the sensuous detail of their skin.
The project continues with research in the Tian Shan Mountains of Kazakhstan in Spring 2019 to capture Malus sieversii, the original edible apple that grows in the last expansive wild apple forests on earth. The work is supported in part by an Art Center Faculty Project grant.
The artist would like to thank Dr. Susan K. Brown, Dr. Philip Forsline and William Srmack of Cornell University; photographers Ken Marchionno and Mary Wingfield; science writer Amanda Garris; John Weldon, Michael Keeler, and Katherine Baghaie of Weldon Color Lab; curators Shirlae Cheng-Lifshin and Kristina Newhouse; and Joe and Emma Ann Fairbrother. Special thanks to the original Kickstarter.com backers, the Center for Cultural Innovation Investing in Artists grant and ARC grant and Kevin Nguyen, Suzette Munnik, and Junzo Mori of the Xiem Clay Center in Pasadena, CA.
for more information on this project see kickstarter.com video, TEDx lecture, museum essay (PMCA brochure) or field video.