Turf I: Disturbed Land, 12" x 72" x 4", graphite on paper
Turf II: Modern Meadow, 12" x 40" x 4", mixed media on paper
Turf III: Flourish, 12" x 54" x 4", mixed media on paper

Turf is part of Survive/Thrive/Alive (March 4 - May 29, 2006) an exhibition at Wave Hill, a spectacular 28-acre public garden and cultural center overlooking the Hudson River and Palisades in the Bronx.

Survive/Thrive/Alive explores the theme of plant survival, showcasing eight newly created installations by artists: examining issues of adaptation and migration, and how these natural forces are compounded by the struggle between civilization and the plant kingdom.

Turf is a suite of “books” inspired by Albrecht Durer’s 1503 masterpiece Der Grosse Rasenstuck (The Great Turf), a painstakingly detailed record of quotidian nature so accurate that botanists today can easily identify each of the nine plants it features.

This sublime portrait of an apparently peaceable plant kingdom, however, belies an important fact: these are weeds, and a veritable dream team of plant competitors. A weed’s status may vary from generation to generation, and from region to region. But weeds and humans have a unique co-dependency. Weeds thrive where humans alter the landscape, mimicking our valued crops, adapting relentlessly, reproducing inventively, and sometimes even photosynthesizing more efficiently than their cultivated neighbors.

The Eden-like calm of Durer’s work also obscures that these are plants on the move. In the five centuries since he collected this slice of nearby meadow, these nine plants have traveled the world, following the footsteps of European colonizers – invited or not.

Turf’s three books tell a success story of competition and co-evolution, as these weeds journeyed from Durer’s pastoral Europe to prosper throughout the globe. Each book deals with a different aspect of survival.

“Disturbed Land” focuses on the concept of turf, exploring how weeds migrate, compete, and succeed where humans disrupt the land.

“Modern Meadow” is a meditation on the idea that Durer could walk beyond the city walls to see these plants in a pastoral meadow, while today they thrive in the margins of human civilization.

The third book “Flourish,” approaches the reproductive strategies that enable these plants to prosper, the secrets of seed dispersal through the air and rhizome growth below ground.


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