Week 3: Ecological Art of Betty Beaumont and Agnes Denes

This week I’d like to talk about the work of two artists that interested me from the reading. They both are ecological art pieces that target ideas of reclamation, recycling, waste, and food.

First of all, Agnes Denes’ Wheatfields – A Confrontation was a wheat field planted in a landfill in New York City.

In this project, two acres of wheat were planted in a landfill, raised like a normal crop, and produced more that 1,000 lbs of wheat. Here is an excerpt from her website:  “Planting and harvesting a field of wheat on land worth $4.5 billion created a powerful paradox. Wheatfield was a symbol, a universal concept; it represented food, energy, commerce, world trade, and economics. It referred to mismanagement, waste, world hunger and ecological concerns. It called attention to our misplaced priorities. The harvested grain traveled to twenty-eight cities around the world in an exhibition called “The International Art Show for the End of World Hunger”, organized by the Minnesota Museum of Art (1987-90).”

The next artist I was interested in was Betty Beaumont, and her work Ocean Landmarkin which “she created an artificial reef out of blocks that she fabricated from coal ash” (Wilson 145). Recycling the coal ash into a now flourishing habitat for wildlife benefits both the wildlife and the humans that feed on it, as well as creatively recycling waste from burning coal. There aren’t many pictures that I could find since the work is at the bottom of the ocean, but here is a  picture of the materials and one picture of the artifishal reef in action:

I think that both Wheatfields and Ocean Landmark tackle interesting issues with our use of land, resources, and waste. While raising topics of discussion on the issues, they also provide interesting possible solutions to the issues. I really like this kind of work in the way that it does show a solution to a problem in that they don’t just suggest it, but they work with scientists and engineers and all sorts of professionals to create working examples. Wheatfields produced 1,000 lbs of healthy, golden wheat on a landfill in New York City, and Ocean Landmark recycled coal ash into a flourishing underwater habitat.

These really got me thinking about how humans could be working with the environment in so many more beautiful and positive or at least symbiotic ways than we currently are as a whole, especially if artists collaborated with scientists and others in similar ways to these examples more.

-Benjamin Breidenthal

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One thought on “Week 3: Ecological Art of Betty Beaumont and Agnes Denes

  1. I’m always interested in art that seems to provide a solution or offer an alternative rather than critique. Always interesting to play devil’s advocate too–are these real resolvable solutions. Or if they are somehow poetic examples, then how does poetry work? Or how scalable are the systems they propose…

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