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  • Baruchello also speaks of his art as personal mythopoesis:
    a contemplative or ritual experience which is also an interior
    search for power. Although it might seem that he is trying
    to weaken the definition of art so that it could finally include
    digging potatoes out of the earth, what he is trying to do is
    "recomplicate" the idea of art, and affirm art (and religion)
    as something with its own dignity in opposition to science.
    Although he admits that his potatoes may not in themselves
    be intriguing, he insists that his way of talking about them
    begins to make them at least a bit disquieting. In the end
    he defines art in a way reminiscent of Kandinsky when that
    artist derides materialism and "art without soul." For Baruchello,
    "Anything we can think of as the source and mother of our
    feelings is art. And anything that isn't isn't."

    Thomas Leddy




    THE ART PUEBLO: GARDENING AS ART AND MYTHOPOESIS




    1. I live in the woods by a stream that flows most of the year. I create living artworks on the land, using stones, trees, flowers and other media. The process is a sort of ongoing mythopoesis. I call it my Art Pueblo.

    2. Years ago, I planted a few patches of mint, down among the rocks, and now the mint has taken over the stream bed. It gets washed away in big storms, but it always grows back. At that time, I decided to create an ongoing series of small living projects as artworks, inspired by Gianfranco Barrucello's "farm as artwork" project, Agricola Cornelia, in Italy. I was inspired by Barrucello's comment that he views his art "as personal mythopoesis: a contemplative or ritual experience which is also an interior search for power. Although it might seem that he is trying to weaken the definition of art so that it could finally include digging potatoes out of the earth, what he is trying to do is "recomplicate" the idea of art, and affirm art (and religion) as something with its own dignity in opposition to science." (See Note below.)

    3. This land in the woods, by the stream, that I call the Art Pueblo, has history. In my artworks, I feel that I am honoring that history. On the old maps, it is called "The Pueblo," because the first Spanish settlement in California was in these parts. Before the Spaniards, for tens of thousands of years, Chumash camped here. I like to remember that. When I was a kid, I played in these woods and picked poppies here. There is a resident Chumash Shaman who invisibly floats through every so often. I cannot see him, of course, but I feel the energy he brings. He is pleased with what I am doing here.

    4. I am surrounded by sycamores, eucalyptus, and pine trees. There are white oaks, elms, and creek willows, too. There are lots of wild things: hawks, squirrels, crows, bats, owls, hummingbirds, and blue jays. And of course, colonies of rabbits. Many, many rabbits! For a long time, a family of deer used to come down and graze at the far end of my meadow, but then they stopped coming. Maybe too many new houses, maybe too much noise. I used to look up from my desk and watch them poke their heads up over the fence, eyes alert, ears listening. One year, I put out a salt lick for them, and by spring, it was half gone, but had become an exquisite sculpture created by deer tongues and their desire for salt.

    5. Ten years ago, as part of my imagined series of agricultural artworks, I decided to plant a few fruit trees and some avocados. Soon after this, I planted white peach, apricot, plum, grapefruit, fig, and several kinds of orange trees. Fruit orchard as Art. It is inspiring to watch these fruit trees grow, leaf out, blossom, and provide succulent offerings sweetened with sunlight.

    9. I decided to plant lavender, and now there are at least four varieties lending a soft, mauve-blue haze over in the natural stone beds where the vegetables used to
    be. I bought hundreds of worms, to aereate the soil, but that is too long a story. Worms as Art. You keep them in buckets with coffee grounds to eat until you are ready to liberate them, but it is important to have a firm lid. I didn’t. Big lesson here. The worms went AWOL. Some things work, some don't, but such is life in a living studio.

    10. Then there were the lady bugs. You buy lady bugs by the pint. The whole idea was to engage in organic pest management. For me, I saw this as another aspect of Garden as Art. But It all got too complicated, so, along with the worm installation (Worm Installation) I let the lady bugs go on their way.

    11. Scaling back to something more manageable, I decided to grow my own cooking herbs in pots. I planted cilantro, Italian parsley, three kinds of basil and six kinds of mint. I used all of them in soups and salads, and it was one of the most satisfying things I have ever done. My own mint! My own cilantro! This year, I am moving ahead to cherry tomatoes.

    12. The pots of herbs became another kind of installation: the terra cotta pots of different sizes, the potting soil and fertilizers, the watering, all of it. I understood exactly why Barrucello found his Agriculture as Art project so engaging, and as a way to enter into a direct, unmediated relationship with Nature.

    13. At one point, I used the different herbs in some nature printing that I was doing, herbs I had grown myself! Bliss. Converting herbs into graphic Art!

    14. You see, the gardens that I usually design and grow are conceptual, inspirational, numinous and ephemeral, involving minds, hearts and souls configured into whole self-organizing systems. But seeing a garden as an artwork in and of itself is a new frontier, an ongoing adventure, breaking through traditional ideas of what art is and is not.

    15. When I was in my teens, and various family members were getting genuinely concerned that I was going to be a problem to society, they sent me in to a bank of psychiatrists for some “vocational testing.” I thought this was just about the stupidest thing imaginable, and that what they came up with was even stupider. After a week of interviews, marking forms, playing with building blocks, and doing puzzles, they handed down their verdict: “Landscape Architect.” How did they know? Even way back then.

    16. About ten years ago, I rented a bull-dozer for a day, and was able to speak enough Spanish to make sense to the operator who patiently carved out the center of the garden as a sort of Neolithic Goddess Circle of Stones, a magic circle for invisible ceremonies, a contemporary henge. We used huge boulders that we dug up from the land, blocks of stone washed down millions of years ago. The Stone Circle is another part of the whole art project, and has a life of its own now, with overflowing nasturtiums,(Homage to Monet and Giverney) Butterfly Bushes, Spanish Sage. It changes with the seasons.

    17. The Garden as Art project continues to unfold itself, suggests new directions, responds to seasons and changes. It has sprouted many other projects, such as the Bird Seed Serpent Mound, the Rock Art Series, the Prayer Flags, and the Sunflower Wall. Playing with rocks, plants, living creatures and flowers has given me opportunities to see this whole matter of Art in a new way, and has taken me back to the earliest roots of Art into a primitive sensibility of my relationship to Nature. Almost Aboriginal.

    18. I often go out to the stream and meditate, justto lose myself in the sounds of frogs, crickets and the wind in the sycamores. The scents from the garden waft around me, like a blessing: orange blossoms, lavender, gardenias, jasmine - all combining into a symphony of soothing and healing scents.

    19. People ask Baruchello how his work at Agricola Cornelia can be art. He says that believing it is art is just a matter of faith. He thinks that the problem of whether Agricola Cornelia is art is like the problem of whether Duchamp's ready-mades were art if they had not been shown in public. For him, the essence of art is a certain way of being.


    20. "A certain way of being." Yes. That is it. And so it goes, here on the Art Pueblo, so it goes.





    (Photograph by Alex)






    Note:

    From A Review by Thomas Leddy: “How to Make Farming Into Art,” being a discussion of Gianfranco Barrucello’s project on his Agricola Cornelia, and the resulting book, which has inspired my gardening initiatives: How to Imagine: a Narrative on Art and Agriculture (1983).

    (Gianfranco) Baruchello also speaks of his art as personal mythopoesis: a contemplative or ritual experience which is also an interior search for power. Although it might seem that he is trying to weaken the definition of art so that it could finally include digging potatoes out of the earth, what he is trying to do is "recomplicate" the idea of art, and affirm art (and religion) as something with its own dignity in opposition to science. Although he admits that his potatoes may not in themselves be intriguing, he insists that his way of talking about them begins to make them at least a bit disquieting. In the end he defines art in a way reminiscent of Kandinsky when that artist derides materialism and "art without soul." For Baruchello, "Anything we can think of as the source and mother of our feelings is art. And anything that isn't isn't." The book ends with a defense of "speaking out of wisdom" which is described statements as coming from the fully conscious individual . How to Imagine also provides an exploration, or perhaps just a caring description of the aesthetics of farm-life, from the sounds of water on the roof, to descriptions of the removal of a bee colony from within the house walls. There are also some humorous passages about mistakes one can make as a novice farmer, and some interesting asides about the author's reaction to feminism. I recommend this book for artists who wish to think about art in the post-Duchampian era and who refuse to think of art is somehow dead or at an end.
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