We each embody a vital landscape, one dependent on a universe of delicate, complicated ecosystems where symbiotic relationships exist as allies to all kingdoms of the natural world. We are at the frontier of climate change. As an artist of solution, my work is a reinvention of possibilities to turn our gaze to the natural world for alternatives to enable us to slow our climate crises and attempt to mend it. I look to industry leaders reinventing the material palette for all of humankind, with one goal in mind: to secure the health and wellbeing of Earth. Inspiring others to use healthier materials for a healthier world is the epicenter of my work. I am a recipient of the Fantastic Fungi Global Summit Scholarship, Voices From The Underground, which informed my work to the point that I cannot imagine my introduction to mycelium without it. Experiencing living matter has been a precious experience. Without the scholarship material and its participating authors such as artists, scholars, scientists, and anthropologists like Jack Kornfield, Michael Polan, Rob Garza, Tiokasin Ghosthorse, Paul Stamets, Andrew Weil, Deepak Chopra, and Merlin Sheldrake, I would not have deeply grasped the importance of mycelium.
I grow my paintings and my sculptures from mycelium. In addition, I make my own botanical dyes using a laking process. My painting palette is foraged and handmade from fruits, flowers, and other botanical materials. Using only organic and living materials in my works is co-creating with the natural world. My intention is to remind people that we are nature. I desire the connected, committed time to my practice to excel and collaborate with mycelium as a medium and to continue to develop works made from 100% sustainable materials. I know that life does not test us by our caution but patiently waits until we decide to jump in to take risks. I want to share with other artists what is possible with a sustainable materials palette. I refer to my paintings as recipes. These are not just paintings or dimensional works on paper. This is living art that lives and breathes, cleaning the air as it dries. These works reduce my carbon footprint and reliance on fossil fuels. Using mycelium as a medium changed the approach to my practice entirely. According to Merlin Sheldrake, the U.K. biologist, mycelium shares 50% of our human DNA. Working with living material is a shared practice, as any human who is first developing needs a hand in organizing the right conditions for growth.
For nearly 5 years, I have been in recovery after a car accident in the Santa Cruz Mountains. I was hit by 4 vehicles, initiated by an impaired driver who left me permanently disabled. Up to that point in my life, I had been an oil painter for over 20 years. However, after several surgeries on my arms and hands, I was unable to use the same painting technique and method I had for many years. In 2019, I had the pleasure of viewing Louie Schwarzberg’s film Fantastic Fungi. In 2020, I received the Fantastic Fungi Global Summit Scholarship. Over the next year, I dove into research on alternatives for living my best life. For the past 3 years, I have developed 44 paintings and 3 large scale sculptures, all grown from mycelium. My current sculpture project, which is supported by the Tennessee Arts Commission, will open as a solo exhibition with the Museum of Infinite Outcomes in Knoxville, TN on May 19, 2023. The Gatekeepers project is a youth empowerment program designed to address the need for continued stewardship of the natural world. The Gate is currently being grown from mycelium. When completed, it will stand 6 feet at the keystone of the arch and be 4.5 feet wide. Grown into the mycelium of the columns are treasures from the natural world, which have been foraged. The completion of the arch itself will take place onsite at the sustainable museum and will act as the first in a series of workshops. I will host adult and youth workshops on botanical painting and mycelium as a medium for two weeks prior to the opening. Adult community members of Knoxville will come together to weave the crown of the gate from kudzu. The Gate will be complete at the end of the workshop and the supporting workshops will be hosted for the next two weeks. On May 19th 2023, the project will open to the public. Visitors will be met with devices provided by the museum to access the AR components buried and grown into the mycelium. Grown to the sides of each pillar and buried into the mycelium bricks are six species who will be animated for the purpose of highlighting each species unique contributions to a healthy ecosystem. Through both voice activations and AR visual animations, the digital aspect is intended to excite younger visitors and get them engaged in stewardship of the natural world. Six of those species will be digitally animated through an Instagram App which will be completed by the undergraduate students at the University of Iowa. To date, the project has been in development for two years. I have used 200 lbs of mycelium, approximately 30 lbs of seashells from various parts of the world have been grown into the mycelium bricks. The use of seashells is to highlight the need for continued Marine conservation.
There will be 6 species sculptures created for the completion of the animations and one final part is the archway itself. Using your mobile phone, you will be able to view the archway in full AR, a thriving, living archway maintaining a healthy ecosystem and beaming with sunlight. There are currently 15 layers of 4 mycelium bricks per line. There are currently 120 bricks, 60 bricks per column. In total, over 2,000 hours of growth time has gone into the grow segment of Gatekeepers. The primary goal of ecologists is to improve their understanding of life processes, interactions, and the biodiversity of organisms. As a bio artist, I pursue the same goals to improve our understanding of life processes and create adaptations so we use healthier materials for a healthier world. Eco art is important because it raises awareness of the dangers facing the planet and promotes conservation. What has been revealed to me in my work is that the same recipe can yield entirely different results. Used to articulate two different extensions of the same view one in painting and fibers and one in sculpture and fibers. I find the process entirely fascinating. From research for every inch of mycelium to the recontextualization of seashells and mushrooms. What I have found in my research is that the Kingdom of seashells and the Fungi Kingdom have been providing us with medicine for quite some time. According to NOAA systematic searches for new drugs have shown that marine invertebrates produce more antibiotic, anti-cancer, and anti-inflammatory substances than any group of terrestrial organisms. Although most medicinal properties come from flowers and plants on land it should not be overlooked at how significant our oceans are to our survival. Coral reefs are sometimes considered the medicine cabinets of the 21st century. Coral reef plants and animals are important sources of new medicines being developed to treat cancer, arthritis, human bacterial infections, Alzheimer's disease, heart disease, viruses, and other diseases. The need for continued stewardship of the natural world has been proven. I am using my own platform to create hope and seed solutions.