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I wanted to quickly share a link to an article published over the weekend with Chicago Art Magazine.  A big thanks to Robin Dluzen for a great conversation that didn’t feel like an interview and her thoughtful perspective on my work.

Catherine Schwalbe-Bouzide’s Corn Party:  Intent and Reception of Social Art.

These are words from the Facebook post by Kathryn Born – Editor in Chief

“Bouzide will re-appear in the 40 over 40 series… but .. holy smokes, what a wonderful, unpretentious artist. She’s comfortable either being identified either as a relational aesthetic artist, or a nice lady who gave you a free bowl. And that’s a wonderful attitude – if you don’t “get it”, you never even knew it was art, just a posit…ive experience with another human.

Social artists – take note.”

A big thanks to Kathryn and Robin.  I have been reading their magazine on line since its inception and have been in awe of their comprehensive and mindful coverage of a variety of artists in the Chicago area.  And… “They pay their writers!” said good friend Jeff Huebner.

“Corn Girls” Bettmann Archive 1915, University of Illinois Mayfest courtesy of the University of Illinois Archives

I wanted to write about The Cornettes:  Advocates for Urban Agriculture in the middle of winter for many reasons.

They are a work in progress.

They have taken on a life of their own.

They couldn’t happen without an ongoing relationship with some amazing women.

I have some thoughts of where they need to go given the recent climate of Urban Agriculture but I thought I would write about where they have been.

The Cornettes started several years ago in my mind.  I appreciated a picture on the back book sleeve (above) of The Story of Corn by Betty Fussell.  A friend, Nancy Little, found the book for me on a sale table at Border’s.  She gave it to me in the midst of a dinner with friends.  I immediately was taken and mesmerized by the images and text throughout the book and of course, the back cover.  Since reading the book cover to cover, at the gentle urging of Bill Friedman – my corn husband, it has affirmed and fueled my work in many ways.

As Fussell writes, “Corn made the whole world kin.”

Fast forward to about four or five winters ago, I shared the image with my mother not knowing where it may lead.

I bought a fresh cob of corn for inspiration on the summer day we embarked on the project after fabric shopping and sewing some kernels together.

Here is mom studying the cob…

Mom studying the fresh sweet corn

We had Summer Sweet completed for our Corn Celebration at Lillstreet Art Center in 2006.  Many thanks to Jennifer Dotson and Mary Zehnder, the first women to don the husks of Summer Sweet to an adoring audience.

Well, I started off this blog entry to talk about and share images of The Cornettes.  But, back in 2006 “The Cornettes” didn’t even exist.  Just Summer Sweet materialized with dreams of more down the corn row.  How did they get their name?  What are their names?  What is next for The Cornettes?  Stay tuned and keep your ears to the tilth!

A follow up on Potable

Non Potable spigot Paulina Station CTA

I wanted to share some sentiments from an unprepared but inspired participant in the Potable gesture in September.  He captures much of what I was trying to communicate and so much more.

Michael Blahy writes:

“Hi Catherine,
You might not remember me from September 28th, but I was the person who came to the Pryor Avenue Iron Well with the big five gallon bottle (and was too camera shy to get photographed!). I am a graduate student at UW-Milwaukee and am currently working on my Master’s thesis. I have been mulling over my essay for some time now, when I realized last night that there’s something particularly significant happening at the well that your Potable Realized project helped me realize (I am so thankful that you extended your experience and thoughts from the well to your blog). The iron well is just as much of a neighborhood gathering place as any of the corner bars in Bayview. For people like me it has become a quotidian experience to fill up and quickly chat with anyone else visiting the watering hole. It is so casually nestled in our neighborhood that it is easy to forget its long history and, more importantly, the connection it provides city residents with local geography and natural resources.
My concerns about the iron well arise out of a narrative I constructed about another vernacular landscape in the area–that of Hubbard Park in Shorewood. I trace its history back to the 1800s when the land hosted a mineral spring resort. Over time the landscape morphed from a rustic park in the country to an amusement park, a train depot, and, finally, what it is now, a residential/park hybrid. However, with the site’s evolution, each layer of history has been slowly erased. The landscape’s rich history is only acknowledged by a few plaques–kind of a let down considering the significance of the geography of the site.
Anyway, it seems to me that the Bayview iron well, in general, and, your artistic project, specifically, have done a better job of inscribing a sense of place that is alive both in its present, day to day form and in its history and geography.
I apologize if I rambled on for too long here, but, if you’re at all interested in discussing your experiences further, I would love to talk more.
And thank you for the wonderful drinking cup! We are enjoying it very much here at home!
Michael”

Michael and I spent some time on the phone with his prepared questions relating to my project and his thesis “In Small Urban Places.”  From his viewpoint I learned and I will be forever grateful.  An artist and one who responds is a true gift.  There are so many of us that make work day after day, year after year and wonder about making an impact.  I am honored by Michael’s thoughtful sentiments and how they might relate to his own discoveries about community.

From Michael’s thesis draft:

“It is so casually nestled in our neighborhood that it is easy to forget its long history and, more importantly, the connection it provides city residents with local geography and natural resources.  Artistic endeavors such as “Potable” literally help one to realize the significance of the place.  It seems to me that the Bayview Iron well, in general and, Schwalbe-Bouzide’s project, specifically, have dona a better job of inscribing a sense of past that is alive both in its present, day to day form and in its history and geography.”

I have been researching other possible site for Potable events in the future.  You might enjoy following this blog:

Find a Spring.  Michael and I both have!

Potable Realized

This entry is dedicated to the family of Ayrie Mekai Jones Murphy.  A dear little four year old that put up an amazing fight in this world.  Love pours from many to your family like water should for all.

Potable Realized

I visited the site on Monday September 28th and put up two laminated posters about Potable.  When my mother and I arrived at 3:00p on Tuesday two people were waiting for us along with my sister in law Laurie Schwalbe, my niece Sheri Paape and her daughter Addison.

The couple waiting for us said “We want to know what this is about!”  The man said he just wanted a cup but the the woman he was with started in with many questions.  “Where are you from?”  “Why are you doing this?”  “What do you want with this neighborhood?  Is Channel Four coming?”  Before I could answer, properly set up, and get my bearings, she had another question.  Whew!  It really got better from then on.  After the discussion felt a little less heated, and my wonderful and calm mother shared supportive words about the project, I excused myself to unload the 100 cups, table, table cloth, basket of lovely MacIntosh Apples from Witte’s Farm stand (a destination whenever I go home during the growing season) and more with my niece.

It was a beautiful fall day in Wisconsin with the colors just turning, the sun shining, with the air still.  BayView WI, is the near southern neighborhood of Milwaukee.  It is home to a vibrant residential, retail, a stunning temporary public art project, and restaurant community.  It is also home to the last public water well pictured here:


Pryor Avenue Iron Well

I became aware of the well prior to my residency with Colorado Art Ranch via Milwaukee’s venerable paper the Shepherd Express. Their article by Sarah Biondich spawned a curiosity and level of interest I couldn’t shake through the rest of Spring, during the residency, and thereafter into Summer.  Then I heard from Wendy Pabich, PhD and Water Deva.  I met Wendy during the Colorado Art Ranch experience.  She is a well respected hydrologist and artist and is sought after to speak and assist with water solutions around the world.  She said she would be speaking in Milwaukee at the Tapping in to Solutions in September and wondered if we could get together…. then the piece that I had turning in my head had to be realized… during the conference!

Fast forward to Tuesday September 28, after the completion of 100 + terra cotta cups, a bit of glaze testing, (thanks Jiyeon Yim – my personal glaze consultant!), two Cone 04 firings , a special event permit with the city of Milwaukee, coordination with four generations of women, and voila, an art gesture.  Here is the flyer for the event:

Potable Invite/Flyer

Several people came by because they had seen the laminated flyer I posted on Monday on site.  Several others had stopped by because they saw something was happening that was out of the ordinary.  Most, however, came to the well because they always do, with their variety of containers, glass and plastic, recycled and reused, to fill their vessels at the well that they don’t take for granted.

Pictures of family, a dear  friend, and people who have come to fill containers from the well water are pictured below:

Two cars unloading containers to fill up with well water on the day prior to Potable.

Prepared to fill up.

Filling up

Eduardo, a “Holistic Healer” demonstrates how he fills his containers.  Eduardo sends people to this well for their water.  He said those that heed his advice have appreciated the water in their path to health.

Set up and ready to go.

Three generations drinking

A wonderful guy and one of the first Potable participants. We shared an extra cup for a nephew who is hospitalized with depression. He said "I will fill it with this water."

Addison loved the colors and the feel of the cups. So sweet.

Dear friend Bonnie Lowell came too = delightful!

Urban dogs benefit too. "Denali" is pictured here.

Cup holders getting used!

This gentleman expressed thanks when he received his cup when he came by to fill his refillable container.

A fun group of "walkers" were surprised and thankful for the cups. They walk in the neighborhood about 5 X a week.

Eduardo and I toasting. A dear guy that loved the cups and the sentiment.

A fun family that visits a new neighborhood each time they walk. Very excited about receiving their own cups.

Satellite Crepes - a delightful couple coming by for water. Check them out online!


Martin, the last Potable participant of the day.


End of Day - 50+ cups given away for Potable

Autumn Schedule

Plenty of art for Everyone!

Potable

The art gesture called Potable is taking shape.  Family members with whom I have spoke are excited about the project which I am humbled and excited about.

Participants will include my mother, Helen Schwalbe of Cedarburg, WI 79 yrs.  My brother David’s daughter Sheri Paape and her daughter Addison – 1 year old of Port Washington, Wisconsin.  My other brother Vince’s daughter Cristina and her daughter Lillie 2 yrs. old of Milwaukee.  Possibly my sister Jacquie’s daughter Ruby 9 years old of Chicago, IL.

Pryor Avenue Iron Well Bayview, WI

Here are the specifics:

100 Terra Cotta Cups "Potable"

100 Terra Cotta Cups given to the first 100 in attendance – stamped for the project “Potable.”

4 Generations of Women

Tuesday September 28, 2010

at the Pryor Avenue Iron Well   Milwaukee Wisconsin

(S. Superior and E. Pryor or N 41° 58.218 W 87° 39.582)

Some facts about water and why this well? Why now?

Potable

A gesture and celebration of public water in conjunction with
Tapping into Solutions:  The Future of Water Conference  09 . 27-29 . 2010

  • In just one day, more than 200 million hours of women’s time is consumed for the most basic of human needs — collecting water for domestic use. – water.org
  • At any given time, half of the world’s hospital beds are occupied by patients suffering from diseases associated with lack of access to safe drinking water, inadequate sanitation and poor hygiene. -2006 United Nations Human Development Report.
  • “For 127 years, Bay View neighbors, and the occasional visitor, have gathered together, bottles and jugs in hand, at the Pryor Avenue Iron Well for its continuous flow of fresh groundwater. The public well, located in a residential neighborhood just a block away from the lake, is the only one of its kind left in Milwaukee, a lone sentinel standing on Pryor Avenue between South Superior  Street and South Wentworth Avenue.”  Shepherd Express  04.10.2010
  • Milwaukee – 1993  By the numbers  44,000 doctor visits.  4,400 hospitalized.  725,000 lost workor school days.  $96 million lost wages and medical expenses.  $90 million new water purification system.   “It was a real tragedy for the community, bu even more for the individuals affected by it.”  – John O. Norquist, Milwaukee Mayor

And finally, Paul and I visited the well on Saturday nite for the first time.  Here are our own images and a video.  Delightful.

Women in Grains, an exhibit of women responding to grains from coast to coast, is all packed up.  A bittersweet day with a lot of help from husband Paul.

We drove through Madison, WI, saw family and did up the acclaimed Farmer’s Market.  We then headed towards Reedsburg and The Woolen Mill Gallery for the show’s last hours of its last day.  We will be heading north eventually to the Twin Cities via Decorah, IA and the Seed Savers Exchange.

I would like to share my words written for the exhibition as it lays some groundwork for works and artists chosen.

*****************************************************

Women in Grains Curatorial Statement

As with anything of depth, Women in Grains has unfolded over time. Working with the theme of agriculture and corn specifically for over a decade, I have been attracted to artists of similar sensibilities. Since the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars I have witnessed and participated in a “back to the hand” movement of making.  I truly believe that the zeitgeist of war times causes people to use their hands more… a sort of collective hand wringing of sorts.

With the “back to the hand” movement also came the classic “back to the land” movement.  We humans, in this industrialized society,  long for connections to the land.  Some of that longing is exhibited with the explosion of growing our own food, community gardens, backyard poultry in urban areas, and a willingness to create connections to those who grow our food.  We are in need and dare I say thirst to be grounded in this crazy world.

In as much as artists mirror society, and at times lead society, and consider the making of art defined with a wider brush beyond the making of objects, many artists in Women in Grains have sought those deeper connections through the lens of the grain.  I recognized something big is happening at my pivotal discussions with Sarah Kavage of Seattle.  Her “Industrial Wheat Project” along with Ann Belden’s “Bushel” piece in Oregon, Il in 2008 sealed the concept for this show. When I approached Donna Nuewirth of Wormfarm Institute and Woolen Mill Gallery last summer during my Food Feed Fuel solo exhibition I was thrilled to have received a call over winter asking if I was still interested.

It is my great pleasure to introduce to you 16 artists reflecting a connection based on grains, from coast to coast.  We have an artist from Maine who is also a farmer, Abby Sadauckas.  A shared connection with performance artist Sarah Aubry and her alter ego and burlesque character “Maizy” who strips to call attention to genetically modified grains.  Now Sarah, as a mother, is looking towards sustaining her family in ways connecting to solar energy and baking.   We have several artists with deep agrarian roots one of whom has incorporated family ledgers and equipment from her childhood farm in Minnesota, Corinne Peterson.  Several artists included in the show I have met on my annual residency in Oregon, IL called The Fields Project including Ann Belden, Carole Hennessy, and Astra Price.  Several others are in my immediate surroundings here in Chicago whether I share studio space at Lillstreet Art Center with them, Jiyeon Yim, Abi Gonzales, Lisa Harris, Corrine Peterson, or share a wider Chicago area space with them such as Gina Hutchings,  Stephanie Samuels, Marj Woodruff, or Barbara Koenen.

This is a formidable group of artists, agitators, and connectors with a shared passion of grains, the Midwest landscape, and food systems.

Please put your grain lenses on to embrace corn, wheat, rice and life.

************************************************

Corrine Peterson

In alphabetical order below you will find works or links to websites of the participating artists.  Before I share works, I would like to thank a bunch of amazing people.  Firstly to Donna Neuwirth and Jay Salinas for lending the space at Woolen Mill Gallery.  Thanks for the faith.  Thanks to Katie Schofield artist liaison for Wormfarm for your assistance with a 1,000 things.   Thanks to all of the individuals that took works from here to there and sometimes back including beautiful, freshly milled flour in 50 lb bags for Sarah Kavage’s piece.   Thanks for sharing relics or “curiosities” from the Brinkmeier farm.  Thanks to husband Paul for the wonderful beer to celebrate Women in Grains.

Thanks finally to an amazing group of talented artists that made this show something special in content, thought, and execution.  The lasting relationships formed have been a joy to watch unfold.

Sarah Aubry Ann Belden Abi Gonzales

Lisa Harris Carole Hennessy Gina Hutchings

Sarah Kavage Barbara Koenen

Anne Lueck Feldhaus Corinne Peterson Astra Price Abby Sadaukas

Stephanie Samuels Catherine Schwalbe-Bouzide Marjorie Woodruff Jiyeon Yim

Sarah Aubry

Ann Belden

Ann Belden


Abi Gonzales

Agri Puzzle

Carole Hennessy

Gina Hutchings

Sarah Kavage Industrial Harvest

Barbara Koenen (detail)

Barbara Koenen

Anne Lueck Feldhaus

Lisa Harris

Corinne Peterson

Corinne Peterson Demeter's Winter

Astra Price

Abby Sadauckas

Abby Sadauckas Elllen

Stephanie Samuels

Stephanie Samuels

C. Schwalbe Bouzide (detail)

Continue Reading »

I was in Oregon, IL (actually housed in Stillman Valley, IL) on my 8th residency with The Fields Project.  A community that celebrates their history of Loredo Taft and his artist colony here in the late 1800’s now celebrates its agriculture and culture connection.

I can thank Anne Lueck Feldhaus for lending her application to me 8 yrs ago for my attempt at the visiting artist experience that has influenced my work in so many ways in as many years.

Ned Bushnell and I after the last soil sample collected.

I was housed with Ned and Lyrah Bushnell at a beautiful family farm, Walnut Creek Farms, in Stillman Valley, IL.  Walnut Creek Farms won the Governor’s Conservation Farm Family of the Year Award in 2004.  Ned grows corn and soybeans with the no till method.  This growing method of farming the commodities has been paying off with healthier soil and life in the field including worms.  It was pure pleasure going into his field and talking soils with him.  His enthusiasm for the process of soil conservation that decreases erosion, keeps unused plant matter in the fields replenishing what the growing has taken, disturbs the top soil less, and is forward thinking in terms of soil health as he works the soil and tilth of his father’s land.

The Oregon Tilth Project, a soil and scent process that I have created,  is why I am here.  I am humbled by the local people I have come to know when they ask “WHAT are you doing this year?”  I seem to have created a sense of curiosity and anticipation for how I might spend my time here and mirror the world that is agriculture in Northern Illinois.

A bit of background:  I read about Laura Parker’s work called “Taste of Place.”  The artist collected soil from area farms, put the soil in a wine glass in a gallery setting, released the aroma with water, and the gallery goers ate produce from that farm and made the connection of soil and food through scent and flavor.  Rarely does my inspiration for art come from other artist’s work.  This is an exception.

Stoneware jars in process.

I have been working on stoneware jars for The Oregon Tilth Project since January.  I collected images relating to farming, tilth, dirt, cultivation methods, and other agricultural images.  I made samples, measurements, shot screens, made prints for the transfer onto clay, all in Tom Lucas’ class Printmaking on Clay.  I spoke with someone from Oregon Tilth at the Family Farmed event this early spring for “permission” to use the name.  A play on names that fits in quite nicely with the theme of the project.  My experiences as a visiting artist with the Fields Project have been varied and wonderful.  Each farm family has been patient, informative, and full of due pride in what they do and are thrilled to share information with the curious.  In no other community could I have pulled off such an event if I had not formed relationships with the host farmers over the years in the environs of Ogle County.

My goal was to get as many decorated jars finished as there were host families and invite them in to the Oregon Tilth Project – A Soil and Scent Gathering or “The Soil Smackdown.”

Farm and Soil collecting videos:

Thanks to Paul Bouzide for still shots and fellow Fields Project Artist Sharron Box for the videos from the competition.  I appreciate you both!

Please note:  This project is supported by a Community Arts Assistance Program grant from the City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Illinois Arts Council, a state agency.”

There were 7 host families along with two other participating farms.  Nine farm families in total.  I spent the week as a visiting artist going to each farm, talking with the farmer about soil, process, crops raised, animals kept, and at times their philosophy and sentiments regarding contemporary agriculture practices.  The statements made were as wonderfully varied as the farmers themselves.  I collected a 3/4 gallon soil sample from the spot of the farmer’s choice, with and/or under the supervision of each farmer.  It was a very wet week so all of the soil samples collected were heavy with rain water.  ATV rides, donuts, event mapping, conservation methods, and so much more were discussed.  I labeled each bag, documented them on each farm with the farmer’s name on an index card, and left the bags open so the soil might breath instead of mold.  By Thursday nite I had collected soil from each farm and was prepared to transfer the soil into the corresponding jars with the help of my husband Paul (while I made myself scarce).

Husband Paul making the samples as consistent as possible.

Potluck Saturday, the traditional day of the gathering of host farmers, artists and sometimes spouses, and other interested and connected individuals who make the Fields Project happen, have a tremendous pot luck dinner.  I asked the farmers to arrive a bit early to join me for the Oregon Tilth Project – aka “The Soil Smackdown. ” The event went much better than I ever dreamed!  Several farmers arrived early (shocking I know) and we ended up having 100% participation.

Some side stories as the competition unfolded:

One farmer took a cup of her soil to her grandson’s little league game to study during the hour or two before the Smackdown.

10 Top Reasons to smell the Dirt was shared by host farmer Joan Pfeiffer.  Her neighbor, Beth Hahn, is a comedienne and offered to create a reprise of “10 top reasons….”  Hilarious!  Here they are on video and in writing:

Wrapped Pfeiffer Centennial Bin - a collaboration with Danny Mansmith 2008

#10  Less expensive than drugs

#9  Good way to block out the manure smell in the air.

#8  Eating the dirt didn’t taste very good.

#7  Once you recognize the smell, you can always find your way home when lost.

#6  All the cool kids are doing it.

#5  The nutrients in the soil are just so additcting.

#4  Sniffing soil is easier than sniffing corn stalks wich tend to get lodged in your nose and draws negative attention to yourself.

#3  After you blow your nose, you can make your own booger-dirt mud-pie

#2 The black residue under your nose is slimming and goes with anything you wear.

And the number one reason to sniff dirt….

Because wrapping a bin takes too long!!!!!

9 farmers waiting for the Soil Smackdown to begin

Other stories….

Gary and Judy Bocker perusing the soils.

During the contest, A farming couple absolutely certain that they guessed their soil… in two different jars, and both were wrong!

Each farmer asked to gently place their hand on the jar that they felt was theirs… with some good natured slapping going on as the competition progressed.

Farmers taking long sniffs, nose first, into the jars as pictured.

A farmer’s wife so incredibly excited that she found her soil that she could not contain herself and then promptly called her husband who was working in the hay field, after she was correct in her soil choice.

And the moment you have all been waiting for….

4 of 9 farmer participants could recognize the scent and texture of their soil. The rest were not pleased.

A big thanks to the following participants:

Gary and Judy Bocker, Polo

Ned and Lyrah Bushnell,  Stillman Valley

Larry and Aneda Ebert,  Ashton

We provided oats as an olfactory cleanser between soils.

Sue Jacobson,  Byron

Joanne Juriga,  Mt. Morris

Ron and Karen Larson,  Mt. Morris

Mike and Joan Pfeiffer,  Ashton

Bob and Sherrie Piros,   Chana

The contest continues....

Barb Samsel,  Oregon

Here are some images and short videos from before and during the event.  I also showed the jars at the Fields Project Art Festival the following day with many people appreciating the project and smelling and feeling the soil themselves to compare.

Successful soil smellers are announced. Congratulations to Joan Pfeiffer (far L) and Lyrah Bushnell (far R) 1 of 4 farmers able to recognize their soil.

All participating farms got a mini for participating.

Grain of Truth Taking Stock of the relics of Chicago’s

era as the world’s stacker of Wheat

Take me Back: An Exploration of Water, local Clay, and Time

During the Artposium Wade in the Water, I planted corn in the center of the piece with Corn Sister Carol Ozaki (pictured third from left).  Pictured too are Carol's husband Ron and Ed Berg.

Corn Sweet (se) Luscious Zea mays var rugosa

During the Artposium Wade in the Water, I planted corn in the center of the piece with Corn Sister Carol Ozaki (pictured third from left below).  Pictured too are Carol’s husband Ron-L and Ed Berg-second from R.
We planted Corn Sweet (se) Luscious Zea mays var rugosa.
“Luscious is a bicolor corn that matures in 75 days – an advantage in areas with a shorter growing season.  Flavorful 8″ ears with 16-18 rows of very tender kernels.  Great fresh but can also be canned or frozen.”
Botanical Interests, Inc.  660 Compton St. Broomfield, CO  80020.
Visitors to the piece during the Artposium

Included are images from John and Ann Graham dated May 28, 2010.  I will say little but include those taken in the last 48 hours by my Art Buddies Ed and Paul Berg.  Wade in the Water indeed.

Images from May 28th. No corn sprouts yet.

Wonderful image from John and Ann Graham

Paula and Ed biked over to the piece.

Take Me Back... getting taken back.

The Arkansas and spring snow melt.

Special thanks to Ed and Paul Berg and John and Ann Graham for sending updated images.

We will see about images and status over the next week or so.