WHAT I DO
My practice generates sensory experiences that forge deep connections with the natural world. The work responds to specific places, informing durational relationships to land as both the origin of life, an important but delicate resource, and a source of wisdom and healing.
HOW I DO IT
I work in various landscapes including, deserts, old growth forests, coastlines, mountain sides, and swamps. Each unique place informs my approach to the project. As I set out, my backpack contains a shovel, water, knife, pruners, snacks, maps, camera, mark-making tools, journal, and collecting vessels. As I explore, I ask:
Who lived here before; how did they operate in this place?
What plants might have been used for food, medicine or ceremony? Does the soil carry their stories?
I attune to smells, how they change as I walk. I become curious about seasonal effects. I notice the imprints of industrialization and extraction. I look for traces of the local ecology’s adaptation or depletion.
As part of this journey, I collect samples and objects. I map specific plants or soil with consideration for the aromatic molecules. I spend long hours in the field where I make distillations, allowing the aromatics to teach me about this specific environment. I return to the studio where I research local plant antiquities — their medicinal, culinary, ceremonial traditions. Eventually, my attention turns to making an experience with the public.
HOW IT MANIFESTS
This practice is intended to be shared through public engagement; sometimes this manifests as a performance, a walking tour, or a sculptural installation. Sometimes public engagement contributes another step in a longer process. In many ways, the process is the product however the practice manifests as an expansive body of sculptures, scents, collections, crops, dinners, performances, and even food systems that range from solitary daily tasks to large civic engagements. The work lives at the intersection of food, farm, community, art, sustainability, research and science, and is supported by a range of institutions in those fields.
WHY IT MATTERS
The experience of place is somatic and sensual. Places are also characterized by what is hidden, missing, or easily overlooked.
In part because of its ephemeral nature, smell is what calls my practice forward. The practice of smelling is to breathe, to remember, to heal, to listen. Smelling affects us on both a cellular and spirit level. Smelling is connected to memory. As we breathe, aromatic molecules enter the physical, emotional, and spirit body, and through this alchemy, a plant may become part of our inner selves. Sharing their own DNA by merging with ours, plants can teach us how to survive, how to adapt. The embedded memory of plants is released through their essence and absorbed into ours. Smelling plants therefore becomes a scent journey, an embodiment of continuous time and place.
My aim is to help people learn from earth's wisdom and to embody the deep, cellular memory of being one with all that is.
Photo credit Kaitlin Bryson