Grandma and Grandpa were farmers from Italy. When they arrived in Chicago in 1910, to what is now Jefferson Park’s Linder Avenue, it was all land. They had a garden that produced numerous vegetables; among them, corn, which my mother sold by the ear on the street corner during the depression. Everywhere Apollonia and Salvatore lived from that time on had a garden. Earth was the faith that we lived. Now it is my work.
For me, living in Chicago was an urban experience – one that i loved but that was always connected to the earth. A dear friend of mine once said that people live in high rises to stay away from the earth. Anyone could witness that reality in Chicago. People living in the sky – rarely touching ground – some by choice – some trapped.
My reality was not there. It was here. Where i am now. It is interesting that some people here say there is “nothing”. Of course, there is a tremendous amount here. That is something they need to uncover on their own.
Knowing that there is so much here makes for a specific type of work. Work that recognizes space as being full – not empty – filled with energy, possibilities and where all things manifest. This is a continuous investigation that does not necessarily broaden but instead deepens. Doris Salcedo’s Shibboleth is an outstanding example of what i am thinking of. Something as seemingly simple as a crack in the floor – has been researched, engineered and is filled with profound commentary on history that is recent, ancient and ever-changing. Work that is about the earth, ground, where we walk, where we are from, what we think of as nothing – or as “dirt”.
Earth as a medium in studio work is supported by my locale. There would be no other logical place to be. What this points to is creating ones life around their work. Meaning the work is the center, the hub. This is opposed to having a life and figuring out how one is going to make the work. That approach will end in a life half lived or more frighteningly – even less.
Making the work is the earth – the ground – from there all else happens.