Project Highlight | Walking Libraries (2016-2019)

Project Highlight | Walking Libraries

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.

01020 Bomarzo, Italia
15km from Viterbo, off the A1
Tel. (00 39) 761 924029
open daily from 8:30am 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
The Botanical Guide to BorderXing is currently available at The New Museum bookstore in Chelsea

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.

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

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