It’s not surprising when a child stuffs a handful of dirt in her mouth. As soon as she discovers that she has a mouth that can taste and arms that have hands and fingers that she can control—in goes the dirt. In goes a pile of sand, food off the kitchen floor, and anything else that piques her curiosity. As adults, we might reprimand this little girl, brush off her hands and rinse out her mouth while saying things like “Yuck!” or “Dirty!”. But San Francisco-based conceptual artist, Laura Parker, encourages us all to re-consider this thinking with her installation piece, Taste of Place.
Laura Parker has worked in the realm of food and agricultural art for over 20 years. With Taste of Place, Parker offers “soil tastings” much like wine tastings, allowing people to smell, look and savor the soil while also tasting the food grown in it; sharing their findings and noting complexities. Parker’s installation asks two questions: How does soil touch our lives and affect our food; and why does it matter?
Born from a similar intent as Taste of Place— ROOTS: a solo exhibition by Laura Parker currently on view at 18 Reasons through May 30th, encourages us to contemplate the microbial world below and aims to stimulate public dialogue about food production. Parker says,
“Like most people when I think of landscape I think of trees, plants and sky. But what of the world below—the one I can’t see? Everything we see is dependent on what we do not see: the soil, the roots, and the microorganisms. Our world, and that includes us, could not exist without the soil.”
Parker’s paintings are haunting and ethereal, earthy and tactile. Stories of the “world below” are etched the surfaces. In one, ink cuts across acrylic naming microbial compounds. In others, ink cuts across wood transcribing excerpts of a Welch farmer’s notes on the soil from the 1930s; his observations in line with current conversations of soil—he, ahead of his time or us, behind. The surfaces of Parker’s paintings match the complexity of their subject matter and inspiration.
Parker’s ROOTS exhibition blends aesthetic pleasure with education to incite dialogue and awareness of the world below. Join us and let your eyes feast while learning little known facts. One interesting tidbit? Some roots of native perennial grasses can provide up to 80% of the organic matter that regenerates rich prairie soil; some of these grasses develop roots reaching 12 to 15 feet deep! Take on the Laura’s soil experiment yourself – gather some friends and arrange your own microbial tasting experiences.
When mind, heart, and palate have been awoken to what lies below and the necessity of its health, we may begin to ask our children with mouths stuffed full of dirt, “how does it taste?”
“Roots” by Laura Parker
In the 18Reasons Gallery: April 5th – May 30th
Open Gallery Hours: Saturdays 12-4pm
3674 18th Street, San Francisco, CA 94110