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Paradise Etched in Stone

Posted on: Monday, December 18, 2006


My Iranian artist friend, Dr. Ahmad Nadalian, carved these beautiful stones as seals or stamps that one can actually print from. Dr. Nadalian frequently travels to the desert of Central Iran with his art students and colleagues. If only peace in the New Year was ensured by the exchange of such genuine craftsmanship, resourcefulness, and good will.


For more information on Dr. Ahmad Nadalian's work, visit his website.

Home Climate Gardens

Posted on: Thursday, November 02, 2006



I listened to the artist Janice Kerbel speak at The Whitney Museum last night as part of their Architectural Dialogues series. Kerbel is currently planning and mapping a ghost town community called 'Dead Star' for ghosts to inhabit during their retirement in the afterlife. 

I was so impressed by the extensive research that Kerbel does for each project with life cycles of plans, drawings, and intricate diagrams. Does the artist ultimately want any of her utopian plans to be realized? Essentially not – though she does provide a certain promise in the details and plausibility that she outlines.


A favorite project of mine is Home Climate Gardens (2003) where Kerbel proposes ideal planting scenarios for various interior microclimate conditions - a community launderette (a suspended, air-filtering garden), an office space (an alpine garden tolerant to excessive air conditioning), a revolving restaurant (a 360 degree sun-drenched garden), and a council flat (a space-saving, wall-mounted garden). The Illustrator drawn diagrams for these projects essentially makes them feel attainable for the every man and perhaps even the mass market. 

Janice Kerbel's 'Dead Star' project is on view at Moderna Museet until December 31, 2006.

Top image is of an abandoned military barracks in Wendover, Utah (Abigail Doan, 2005)

Arcology | Soleri's System(s)

Posted on: Monday, October 23, 2006


Paolo Soleri | 'cosmological bubble diagram'


Paolo Soleri received the Cooper-Hewitt's National Design Museum Lifetime Achievement Award this past week. Soleri has crafted his entire life and body of work around research related to arcology.

Arcosanti, Soleri’s design laboratory in Arizona’s high desert, is no longer a concept of the past or the marginalized undertaking of one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s visionary students. The principals of arcology are now taking root in graduate design schools and studios. At his lecture at Parsons Architecture and Design School last Friday evening, Soleri clarified his thinking on this front and stated openly, 'the practical is often the opposite of the real.'

Soleri views most architects to be orchid makers, designers focused on crafting gorgeous stand-alone structures that are completely inefficient when it comes to the community as a whole. He encourages us to consider having our (present + future) energy systems collaborate with the morphology of the built system.

The Road to Galisteo

Posted on: Thursday, September 21, 2006


Was it Carl Andre who remarked that his ideal piece of sculpture was a road?

The journey has begun as I begin my week long artist residency in New Mexico. I will be onsite at THE LAND/an art site in Mountainair, New Mexico as of September 23rd. I touched down in Albuquerque today and immediately headed off to the Galisteo Basin for a dose of autumn splendor in the desert Southwest. I have decided to devote my upcoming residency project to 'the aesthetics of connectivity'. An attempt to give voice to what is in the air, on the breezes, in the tension wires that surround us.




This is not just a matter of making art as if the world mattered, but a matter of remaking ourselves in the image of the land, the seemingly barren terrain, the so-called wasteland of emptiness that harbors our vagrant, tumbleweed desires.

Comune and Civic Canopies

Posted on: Wednesday, July 26, 2006

City by the Sea (fragment) attributed to the Sienese artists Sassetta c.1425 (also attributed to Ambrogio Lorenzetti, c.1340 and Simone Martini, c. 1310)

The idea of the fragmented city and the negotiation of space in the public domain is an activity that fits well with my current investigations of territory, seed conservation, and ecological commerce. Civic spaces typically promote activities that emphasize the collective drive towards financial security, competitive trade, and remuneration of goods and services. Within the subtle infrastructure of this activity is a complex fabric of free-range exchange that ideally involves the bridging of cultural and ecological islands within a community. How might one bring to the forefront the delicate nature of this fragmented fabric and in turn retrofit the blanket of human consumption with practices of common grazing that are sustainable and grounded in diversity?

The expanse of an installed crocheted canopy or hand-knotted net might allow an urban dweller to experience the same topographical vastness or limitless view or catch that a wilderness explorer or deep-sea fisherman might. A hovering, migratory fabric might also shelter us from extreme environmental elements and provide cover or roofing for air loft gardening or seed harvesting. The inevitable cloak of globalization demands that we examine the fringes of zoning, resource management, the changing atmosphere, and quilted urban layers in order to resift our attitudes about survival, spatial utilization, and shared surfaces.

I am specifically interested in using seeds, textiles, and (biodegradable) fiber in conjunction with gardening and civic planning as an opportunity to reorder our consumption practices. I want to better understand how one person’s plot, cultivated civic identity, and connection to seed banking and dissemination might strengthen a weakened social fabric.

Comune, in Italian, refers to a self-governing community, not necessarily in the utopian, isolationist sense of the word, but as a model for wresting power from outside influences to create il buon governo, a mosaic-like garden of civic connectivity. It is this pixilated bricolage of social and ecological zones that makes a community vibrant on multiple levels. A reinvigoration of agrarian practices within the urban arena allows for canopies of new surfaces and individual islands of exposed layers on which we can collectively graft our hopes.

Resuscitating Sacro Bosco

Posted on: Friday, July 14, 2006


Bomarzo, the garden underworld of Duke Vicino Orsini, was created over the course of thirty-five years as a dig to the Renaissance ideals of orderliness, symmetry, and proportion. This extensive landscape folly began (c. 1552) with a conventional grotto, nymphaeum, and theatre complex and quickly deviated into a rambling menagerie of moss and lichen-covered forms shape shifting into allegorical dragons, lions, sleeping nymphs, sphinxes, and even the otherworldly triumvirate of Cerberus, Persephone, and Demeter.

Vicino Orsini was born in 1513 to an ancient noble family with a castle overlooking the village of Bomarzo. As a professional soldier with literary and romantic infatuations, the Duke was compelled to incorporate into his garden’s design violent imagery from his personal life as well as dark interpretations of classical works and poetry. His unorthodox combination of gardening as both catharsis and irreverence makes for an odd mixture of vegetal jeux d’esprit entwined with a nightmarish descent into the terror of nature’s life cycles.

Upon visiting Bomarzo in 1949, Salvador Dali commented that he had found surrealism on a scale he could not have imagined. Sacro Bosco today is a place for unfettered discovery, marvel, and carpeted reflection. One still cannot escape, though, the presence of statuary that appears to be on the brink of historical resuscitation and gaping green revolt.


Sacro Bosco
01020 Bomarzo, Italia
15km from Viterbo, off the A1
Tel. (00 39) 761 924029
Open daily from 8:30a.m. to dusk

Botany and BorderXing

Posted on: Friday, June 30, 2006


Extracts from The Botanical Guide to BorderXing (2004), a pocket-sized pamphlet created by artists Kayle Brandon and Heath Bunting, cleverly lures both wild plant enthusiasts and border crossers into the often treacherous terrain of nature asylum. Brandon and Bunting state in the pamphlet's brief introduction, "The guide can be used to identify plants, terrain, and strategies across a broad range of crossing conditions. People border cross whether they are fleeing persecution or seeking change."

The specifics of the European flowers and plants illustrated in the guide enables border crossers to be aware of the toxicity of popular specimens in the event of ingestion during times of survival. The dichotomy of floral beauty and potential illegal activity starkly highlights the absurdity of political and economic edges in a world where weather, wind, water, and sun should dictate the rules of the day.


For information on Brandon and Bunting's work, go to http://duo.irational.org/botanists_guide
The Botanical Guide to BorderXing is currently available at The New Museum bookstore in Chelsea

Topophilia and Seed Sanctioning

Posted on: Thursday, June 15, 2006

Seed Battalion (Abigail Doan, 2004)

As follow up to 'Seeds and Stones of Paradise' (see June 4, 2006 entry), I was interested to come across this posting on Topophilia, a landscape-architecture blog whose small gang of editors describe topophilia as being "an abnormal attraction to place - a tendency towards place."

The Axis of Art: "In a startling development sure to raise suspicion at the highest levels of the US government, artist Abigail Doan is exporting raw materials to Iran which, if assembled properly, are capable of producing high-grade land art. How long can she continue with this art enrichment program before facing sanctions?" (see http://www.topophilia.org/log/topics/the-political-landscape).

My seed projects and site-specific installations might now be classified as a threat to homeland security and data dispersal. One might ask, which came first - the seed, the search, the dispersal? Can we truly contain ourselves when the internet inherently allows for an abnormal fascination with places and zones that are both geographically and politically off-limits? Should I now be concerned that the ideas that I cultivate with individuals abroad might be deemed un-American or even a dismissal of the mission at hand?

Federgras (feathergrass) of the Russian steppes whose seeds are carried long distances on the wind.

The winds of change sometimes roar and sometimes whisper carrying seeds over the most impenetrable of barriers.

Seeds and Stones of Paradise

Posted on: Sunday, June 04, 2006

image of installation by Mahmoud Mahromi, Shiva Sadegzadeh, and other artists courtesy of paradise site/nadalian

I am currently cultivating an ongoing dialogue with Dr. Ahmad Nadalian, an Iranian artist, distinguished professor of art in Tehran, and the founder and director of The Paradise International Art Center in Poloor, Iran. Dr. Nadalian was selected to exhibit his mixed media work in Iran's Pavilion at the 50th Venice Bienniale in 2003. He is currently heading up a year's worth of programming and artist residencies at Paradise International Art Center, to which I was recently invited as part of a residency competition for projects exploring environmental art works and intercultural gardening. According to Dr. Nadalian's website, the word 'paradeisos' in Greek, or 'paradise' in European languages, originally came from the Persian phrase "Avestan pairi-daeza", or garden. "According to Sufis, paradise is the manifestation of absolute beauty, and the inhabitants of paradise enter into every beautiful form that they conceive and desire. Moslem mystics simply interpreted paradise as being the good deeds of man." (Nadalian)

image courtesy of paradise site/nadalian

During the next year I will be collaborating with Dr. Nadalian, his students, and other international artists who were invited to create works under the shadow of Mount Damavand. It is our intention to explore the virtual and ritualistic practices associated with defining, propagating, and disseminating shared ideas about cultural and ecological harmony.



For more information on Dr. Ahmad Nadalian's work, go to: http://www.wwwebart.com/riverart/
His globally distributed, carved rock art is featured in the May - June edition of Utne Magazine
Above image courtesy of riverart site/nadalian

Camouflage and Meditation

Posted on: Wednesday, May 24, 2006



Is meditation a means to hide from, merge with, or simply survive in the landscape of contemporary life? Exposing the heart of one's creative intentions is a terrifying prospect for many of us. Evolutionary adaptations like camouflage allows for concealment from prey and predators. Visual trickery in this instance outsmarts overt acts of violence and thuggery. The art world, in all its free-range, meandering activity, can be a brutal landscape. 

One cannot deny that an exoskeleton forms after years of sticking with it and staying true to one's self. It becomes increasingly difficult to spill forth ideas and exist in a world that feels less than natural and grounding.






In moments of self-doubt, I turn to the wisdom of meditation practitioner Sally Kempton and the imagery of artist Beverly Semmes. Throughout her career Semmes has explored the theme of body and landscape, richly textured ideas about absence and presence, and to use Kempton's words, 'the secrets of what it means to love the life you are meant to live.' 



How else might one discover purposefulness without the haven of a safe perch, a custom-made protective cloak, or the safe-zone of a retrofitted pod? Life can spill forth when the beautiful and the grotesque can co-exist, when prey and the preyed upon are in harmony, when the inner and outer realms mesh in an exaggeration of mysterious grace. Breathability and protection are indeed one in the same.


Hiromi Paper | Washi

Posted on: Thursday, May 18, 2006

image: red radish (unpeeled), handpressed paper

During a recent trip to Los Angeles, I made a pilgrimage to my favorite handmade paper supplier at the Bergamot Art Station. Hiromi Paper, Inc. is a mecca for papermakers, bookmakers, printers, conservators, and admirers of the tactile. 

This fluttering garden of flattened fibers is a treasure trove of handmade Japanese papers ('washi', in particular), decorative papers from around the world, as well as pre-sized sheets of Japanese papers for digital printing. I am particularly fond of their German fruit and papyrus sheets. Each hand cut sheet includes seasonal fruits and vegetables that are pressed to allow for the removal of moisture from vegetable matter. The result is a thin slice of cellular salad that is useful for collage, fruity letter writing, or simply hanging as a manuscript of organic wonder.

image: carrot (peeled), handpressed paper

For more information on Hiromi Paper, visit http://www.hiromipaper.com

Homespun Inspiration

Posted on: Monday, April 17, 2006
























Returning home during the first signs of spring takes on special meaning with my family. My mother is generally waiting for the arrival of new lambs and my father's list of post-winter repair tasks is long. Despite the toll that winter storms take in upstate New York, there is always a renewed optimism about personal projects and the land. My mother, Abigail, is a handspinner and fiber artist who spent most of her summers as a young girl tending to sheep on a small island off the coast of central Maine. She was the daughter of an eccentric zoologist and a bookish botanist, yet her involvement with nature and the seasons was always intuitive and 'homespun practical' on some level. Her patience for putting together the ideal flock was further developed during her time as a dedicated dairy farmer and entrepreneurial sheepherder with my father, James. Today she has a hand-picked flock of fourteen Leicester Cross sheep and a miniature donkey who proudly serves as the resident shepherd and off-tune watch dog.





















There is something uniquely special about sneaking into your artist mother's studio –especially when she is nowhere in sight. It is not only being privy to someone else's creative process but perhaps also an insight into the source of your own aesthetic leanings and tendencies. This is not to say that a direct stylistic correlation exists. However, one cannot deny that 'the warp and weft' of one's personal philosophy begins with this material. The miniature still lives that abound are evidence perhaps that there is still life in what you remember to be lasting and real in a world that often seems to be fleeting and unraveling at the core.

Abigail McEnroe's luxuriously handspun wool products and Nuno felted fibers can be found at MeriMac Farm in Garrattsville, NY, not far from the Cooperstown Leatherstocking region. Abigail's studio e-mail is aghaglady@twcny.rr.com.

Worshipping Totemic Buds

Posted on: Thursday, April 13, 2006

There is a totemic, confrontational quality about Blossfeldt's magnified Horse chestnut buds (Aesculus parviflora). A plant animal fusion of wrought iron pillars in the cult of 'nature as blueprint for exemplary design and engineering'.

Karl Bossfeldt (1865-1932) a skilled sculptor and plant modeler - became best known as a leader in Germany's New Objectivity photography movement. His prolific teaching and the publication of 'Urformen der Kunst' (Art Forms in Nature, 1929) galvinized him as a forerunner of green architecture and nature preservation.

The Horse chestnut buds depicted here have been magnified twelve times.

'Like Lilliputians we observers wander among these gigantic plants.' (Walter Benjamin, 1929)

Ornamental Ova

Posted on: Saturday, April 08, 2006



Traditional Ukrainian pysanky Easter eggs are meticulously decorated or drawn with dyes, beeswax, and a stylus or 'kystka'.
The term pysanky originates from the verb 'pysaty', meaning, "to write". The intricately patterned eggs are often styled after traditional Ukrainian embroidery. Fertile designs for the ushering in of spring.

Espaliers as Space Savers

Posted on: Monday, March 27, 2006



Espalier is an ancient 'pruning' and 'grafting' technique originally employed by the Romans and medieval Europeans as a means to save space around monasteries compounds and castle grounds. 

The process of training the long, pliable branches of fruit trees and shrubs to grow flat against south facing garden walls or fences enabled valuable garden beds to be used for other plantings such as vegetables and medicinal herbs. 

(photo: Abigail Doan, 2006) at The Cloisters, NYC

Victoria Amazonica | Urban Rafts

Posted on: Saturday, March 25, 2006




Imagine Victoria amazonica, the Giant Amazon Water Lily, floating through the networked waterways of New York City.

A night blooming water lily native to Brazil, its large platter like leaves can grow up to seven feet in diameter. The twelve-inch fragrant white flowers are often described as having a scent as sweet as pineapple. The maroon-edged leaves have a spongy, quilted texture with a spiny underbelly. 

(featured image by Abigail Doan, 2006)

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