Neo Rio: Pollinators, Plants & People

Invited to be a part of Neo Rio 2016: Pollinators, Plants & People, the Debris Project was integrated into a part of the installation called ADRIFT, which looked at the chemical impacts on pollinators. Neo Rio is an annual arts event hosted by LEAP (Land, Environment & Art of Place) at the Montoso campground in the Wild Rivers Recreation Area in the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument. LEAP provides opportunities to deepen our appreciation and understanding of and relationship to our environments and our human and non-human neighbors; to increase our commitment to protecting these places and relationships and fostering creative responses and expressions of them in contemporary art and culture.

ADRIFT was installed in the man-made structure of the campsite, which had a view of the Chevron Questa mine. Because mining releases substantial chemicals into watersheds, and chemical body burdens are intimately tied to plastic pollution, this setting was ideal to present the chemical impacts on our watersheds. Included in the installation were post industrial western landscapes of oil refineries in Commerce City & Sinclair Wyoming, as well as an aerial view of the DOW chemical plant in Texas. DEBRIS tiles were hung vertically as flags to withstand the strong winds that whip across the top of the Rio Grande gorge. The images were representations of native pollinating water insects created with Oceans First in Boulder, Colorado during a spring session earlier in the year. Weighting down the flags was a plastic toy dinosaur; a reminder that the source of endocrine disrupting chemicals is fossil fuels.

View from the ADRIFT installation at the Montoso campground towards the Chevron Questa Mine looming in the distance. Chevron is confronted by years of remediation work after the mine recently shut down.
Gaea McGahee explores DEBRIS tiles at night as the Neo Rio event rambles on around the campfire.
Printed matter: preparation of tiles made earlier in the spring by Oceans First students in Boulder, Colorado. The students focused on creating plastic representations of flies found in watersheds throughout the Rocky Mountain West.
Making DEBRIS tiles into vertical hanging flags to withstand the winds that whip across the top of the gorge.
Hanging the flags: weighting down the vertical flags is a reminder of the source of plastic and the chemicals in the form of a plastic toy dinosaur.
Exploring the broader theme of pollination, the works installed in the ADRIFT section included butterflies, here represented as flags hung under a painting of the DOW chemical plant. The butterflies were conveyed as voids to echo the decimation of habitat monarchs are facing now because of heavy use of chemicals in agriculture. The central flag is a re-purposed plastic pro-cor plate created in collaboration with Susanna Mitchell as part of the Monarch project.
Detail of a butterfly flag with degraded plastic filling the void.
A deflated plastic bee balloon was stung up in a dead tree to serve as a flag marking the path between the ADRIFT installation and HOME. The HOME installation was a hands on activity station that explored how pollinators like bees are essential to human nourishment. Providing a solution to the challenges pollinators face now, local wildflower seeds were offered to participants to take home to their own gardens in order to provide habitat for pollinators.

TJ Mabrey

TJ Mabrey - Seed CarrierTitle: Seed Carrier (detail)
Medium: Italian Marble
Size: 7.5 x 30 x 5 inches

Artist Statement

Seeds are dispersed in so many unique ways. The seeds themselves have built in mechanisms for moving about: jumping-jack bounces, sticky bits to attach to clothing, fur, shoes of passers-by etc…But my intent in submitting the sculpture Seed Carrier is to show another way – by boat/ship.  The sculpture represents an empty wisteria pod which is floating on water, like a boat on the ocean.

The marble bed for the seed is empty of the wisteria seed, but I filled it with other (real) seeds to indicate how seeds for food are transported, country to country and continent to continent. Sometimes those seeds meant for food (rice, wheat, and the occasional wild flower) become embedded in the earth where they land and are able to reproduce……that is, if they haven’t come in contact with the New and Improved Monsanto Monster – RoundUp Ready-Xtend!

Seed Carrier by TJ Mabrey
TJ Mabrey, Seed Carrier, Italian Marble

Stephanie Lerma

Stephanie Lerma - Seed CloudIn the Air,  A Seed Cloud (detail)
handmade cotton paper, watercolor, thread, sunflower seeds

As a gardener, I often look to the sky.  I wonder – and always hope – that water will come on its own;  I wonder and hope that little seeds might be drifting  in the air and landing in my yard.  Air, water and seeds: a unique relationship.  I built In the Air thinking about this relationship.

Seed Cloud by Stephanie Lerma
Shadows capture the ephemeral quality of Stephanie Lerma’s intention behind Seed Cloud