May 26, 2011

ding dong!
the WICKED author
is on a book tour

Wicked Bugs

May 23
Horticultural Society of New York
 During World War II, the Germans accused the Allies of dropping beetles from aircraft.  
Amy Stewart has gone over to the dark side and turned it into a minor industry.  On Monday night she explained how the nefarious, illegal and immoral entered her world. 
"I was writing this book (Flower Confidential), and I talked to many, many botanists and horticulturists. I  found in addition to their regular gig,  each one had an odd little corner of the plant world they kept secret.  And that secret lead me down the WICKED PATH".

 Which led to...merchandise
which led to another book...wicked bugs
and resulted in two bestsellers.  Why?   Amy Stewart knows how to tell a very good yarn.  

How about the woman who tried to kill her husband with a tarantula pie or Darwin felled by the assassin bug or Napoleon losing the Russian campaign due to lice or the results of Hurricane Katrina blamed on the Formosan termite. 
These horticultural horrors in the right hands make successful books.  And don't forget the illustrations by Briony Morrow-Cribbs.  It doesn't get creepier.  These books are not available on the Kindle or Ipad  Why?  You would miss the illustrations.  These are books produced by someone who loves books.  We can all learn something from Amy Stewart.

May 25, 2011

Moorish can be boorish!


May 21 - August 21
New York Botanical Garden
Curated by Penelope Hobhouse

It was the debut of Lady Gaga's 'Born This Way' 
It was Bob Dylan's 70th birthday.
All good omens for the opening party
of the Alhambra show at NYBG.
Even so,
sometimes you can't win.

The Enid A. Haupt Conservatory at the New York Botanical Garden is an elephant, an elegant elephant, but an elephant.  To work some magic in that place takes more than showmanship.  The New York Times called the show "an homage to the meditative pleasures of the Alhambra's gardens."  I did not find it so.
I heard the sound of water flowing from the imitation Alhambra-like fountains, walked by the citrus trees, observed the "pint" size cypress, drank the mandatory glass of wine, ate a cheese stick and walked out the door into the Jane Watson Irwin Perennial Garden.
Another couple had the same idea.  They were admiring the oriental poppy 'Prince of Orange'.  I said to my friend, "This is so much better than being inside."  The man  turned his head and said "Isn't though."

On the way home, I tried to think about where the show had gone wrong.  I took a little time, but I figured it out.  The show needed a conceptual artist.  Someone who would have taken the elements of the Alhambra gardens and transformed the conservatory into a sound piece or some kind of sensory overload.  What was missing was a powerful experience.

"In conceptual art the idea or concept is the most important aspect of the work.  When an artist uses a conceptual form of art, it means that all the planning and decisions are made beforehand the execution is a perfunctory affair. The idea becomes a machine that makes art."  Sol LeWit
This show needed someone like Sol LeWit to bring the power of Alhambra gardens to NYBG.

May 15, 2011

the SOLE and the SOUL:

Rainwater Harvester/Greywater Feedback Loop
is a water saving system made from salvaged materials. - Futurefarmers

Amy Franceschini
Intervals:  Futurefarmers
Guggenheim Museum
May 4-14, 2011

Shoes, farming and urban actions are three things on my radar and so is any show David van der Leer curates. He is a guy with an eye and an ear for innovative thought.  Intervals:  Futurefarmers, a ten-day "thinkery" in conjunction with the Guggenheim Museum is hard to categorize and that is the idea.

"...the cobbler's bench, materials, and shoe racks of a shoemaker's atelier the nucleus of a series of events that address the relationship between the sole and the soul.  The atelier is an open interpretation of Simon the shoemaker's studio, of fifth century Athens, in which Socrates had extensive philosophical discussions with Simon and local youth, creating an informal classroom or "thinkery."
David van der Leer

I wanted to know more about Futurefarmers.  Amy Franceschini was kind enough to respond to a few questions I posed.

PO:  Why the name?  Why choose farmers?

AF:  Growing up in the "Breadbasket of America", I witnessed the great orchestration of modern agriculture.  My father farmed over 6,000 acres and owned a pesticide company and in 1975 my mother became an organic farmer following the philosophy of Rudolf Steiner and the Permaculture movement. 

This production of the land depends on communication and strategy, but in the end the unpredictable patterns of nature prevail, leaving a great stage for improvisation and trust.  My life as an artist has been shaped by this experience and now focuses on social and political influence on land use.
Shoelace exchange 
is a multi-layered project about the lost art of shoemaking, arts economy, and local flora.  It is a play on "getting by on a stoestring".  One hundred fifty shoelaces were hand dyed with local "weeds." - from Futurefarmers

Futurefarmers comes from my personal history of growing up on two very different farms:  large scale, industrial and organic (small).  My parents were divorced and I jostled these two types of farming lives and ideologies that they were coupled with;  pesticide companies/legislation, and anti-gmo-pesticide demonstrations.

On a more meta-level farming is a great metaphor to work within and really captures the essence of the way our collective works in terms of the body of thinkers and makers who come together in concert to create work.

PO:  How did you come together?
AF:  The current constellation of farmers came together mainly through an artist in residency program we ran from 1997-2007.  Twenty-three artists from 14 countries have come through the studio.  The relationships that formed during these residencies has formed lasting working relationships where we continue to collaborate on a project basis.

Varying constellations of us form on a project basis.  This is determined based on interests, availability, skills and location.
 Headlands Garden Boat
Redwood herb garden commissioned by Headlands Center for the Arts.  Since the garden is situated in a National Park it had to be completely deer proof and ready to sail away in case of a flood. - from Futurefarmers

PO:  How do you work together?
AF:  Myself and Michael Swaine have been the base of Futurefarmers since 1998, so many of the projects stem from our psyche or current reflections on the world around us in relation to the project or exhibition at hand.

But we work in a way to create frameworks for exchange and collective production, such that our audience become the authors.  We work very intentionally to create an open-system such that the piece can evolve and collect meaning based on people's participation in the piece.

In terms of ideas...we have too many sometimes, so editing is our best friend.  We have many times given ourselves rules or self-inflicted restrictions in order to distill the complex of ideas that can form in a group of 3 or more artists.

We have been very influenced by Lars Van Trier's:  Five Obstructions.  Obstructions are very useful in our process.

PO: Using a shoemakers atelier, windmill symbolically and recasting the picnic blanket as a means of investigation are all interesting "recastings" of common objects?

AF:  I think the recasting is interesting for us in terms of reminding ourselves how much our past influences the present --- to highlight change and repetition and stasis.

Recasting again offers a sort of obstruction, in the sense that a frame and stage is already determined, but a contemporary context or actions can fill that space --- giving it new meaning, but grounding it in a past --- this comparison has been important in terms of setting historical precedent and reaching across a large generational span in terms of understanding.

In the instance of the picnic, we chose this aspect of the movie as an easy entry point for larger conversations that extend beyond the blanket, but remain very intimate.  After working on many projects that include large audiences or large scale participation, the picnic was our response to a desire for intimacy and one-on-one interaction on an at once smaller stage that casts itself to a larger audience via podcast and the book form.

In the case of the shoemaker's atelier...We see this as a filling in of a history that has not fully been recorded.  The bits and pieces we have found in John Sellars text describing the alleged dialogues between Socrates and the shoemaker Simon beg to be materialized.

The cobbler's shop reflects our interest in craft and the storefront/shop as a permeable space between the private and the public.  (In the 1800's a cobbler's shop was his/her home and space of commerce).

There are so many ideas contained within a single project associated with Futurerfarmers, I advise everyone to take a look at their website and investigate their work.

Futurefarmers is a group of artists and designers working together since 1995.  Our design studio serves as a platform to support art projects, artist in residency programs and research interests.  We are teachers, researchers, designers, gardeners, scientists, engineers, illustrators, people who know how to sew, cook and bus drivers with a common interest n creating work that challenges current social, political and economic systems.
all photos courtesy of Futurefarmers

May 5, 2011

Garden On
A Hot Tin Roof

Marco Castro
Festival of Ideas

for the New City

May 4-8, 2011

Bus Roots
May 7, 11 am- 7pm

An Interview with Marco Castro
A couple of years I explored the idea of garden inside a subway car.  When I read about the bus roof garden, I knew I wanted to get in touch Marco Castro, the designer.

PO:  Can you talk a little about your background and how you developed the idea of roof garden on the bus, known as BUS ROOTS?

MC:  I'm interested in making people interact with their environment, be engaged with it and if possible, encourage people to improve upon it.

Artists and projects that blended urban and natural elements inspired me.  They started conversations with their communities using living materials.  I was also inspired by memories of traveling with my family and my grandmother to a ranch in the countryside.  Once there, she would show me how to understand plants and their benefits they bring to society.

So I posed myself this challenge, how could I reconnect vibrant urban communities back with nature in a practical and playful way?  BUS ROOTS is the solution I propose. 

My graduate school, ITP at NYU was an invaluable support for letting me play with new ideas, experiment with technologies and materials, meet new people and allowed me to imagine new perspectives of the world around me.

I wanted to make a project that did not have to rely on electricity or involve screens that required a dark space.  I was looking for a project that was as non-invasive and on-pollutant as possible.  Something public that could involve the citizens and the spaces they use.  It would bring a sense of play and awe to the city.
I wanted to make a project that did not have to rely on electricity or involve screens that required a dark space.  I was looking for a project that was as non-invasive and on-pollutant as possible.  Something public that could involve the citizens and the spaces they use.  It would bring a sense of play and awe to the city.  It would be designed consuming the least amount of resources and if possible heal the environment.  I came to the conclusion that I wanted a project that could use plants as a medium.

Plants are the some of the most efficient organisms I could think of.  They are  great solar panels, they produce their own food, they don't produce waste, they don't pollute, they actually clean and heal the environment around them if they can.  They are great heat and sound insulators and become great food for animals and therefore, for humans.  Plus, they make our surroundings much more lively and attractive.

These are some of the reasons that go me started in thinking that BUS ROOTS could help the environment.  Roofs are typical unused spaces and green roofs, in general provide the following benefits to urban environments:

  •   diminish air pollution
  •   accoustical insulation
  •   heat insulation
  •   by lowering demand for heating and air conditioning use, less carbon dioxide is released from power plants and furnaces.
  •   habitat restoration - providing green space for new insect and animal life to live and visit.
  •   aesthetic value
  •   conserve energy
  •   storm water management, they absorb water that would other wise end up clogging the sewage system.
  •   mitigation of urban heat island effect, they can lower the temperatures and affect the microclimates in the city.
  •   Co2 Sequestration
  •   public education and recreation, they provide ways for people to understand natural life around them and ways to protect it.
  •   reclaim real estate for people to enjoy and interact with their community.

PO:  Can you talk the roof garden on the bus.  The process, the problems, the challenges.
MC:  The biggest challenge has been getting people to believe you can grow plants on buses and that there is one working prototype running around New York City.  I expect to tackle this by designing more BUS ROOTS prototypes and proposing to install it in as many buses as possible.

The plants growing right now are sedum and part of an extensive green roof system.  I am looking for lighter weight plants and to find more variety of plants. It requires very little maintenance, the plan is to have the garden be nourished by the rain and every once in a while, replenish the nutrients that might be lost.

I did want the bus drivers to turn into bus gardeners.  However, I would be happy to talk to gardeners who would want to garden on buses.

PO:  Please explain the biobus project?

MC:  The Bio Bus is an educational science lab that visits schools and learning spaces all year round.  In it, kids learn about biology and the environment.  Bio Bus is the first bus to every have a green roof, it has the first BUS ROOTS working prototype.

The first prototype covers 15 sq. ft. of the roof, it weighs 225 lbs. and has travelled to the Bronx, Long Island, Pennsylvania and Ohio.

PO:  Plans for the future?

MC: I'd like to plant more gardens, experiment with more plants and vehicles.  Perhaps, grow some edible plants.  I would also like to register carbon levels and storm water management.  In better words, I'd like to explore what does Nomadic Agriculture mean.

all photographs courtesy of marco castro.

Marco Castro is an  interaction designer graduated from the Interactive Telecommunications Program more commonly known as ITP at New York University.

"My goal is to design solutions that provide an enriching and multisensory experience."

Festival of Ideas

for the New City

May 4-8, 2011

Bus Roots
May 7, 11 am- 7pm


May 3, 2011

Gardens Are A Place For Growing Gardeners

Art de Vivre:
Gardens for Gourmets
French Institute Alliance Francaise
May 2, 2011
ROGER DOIRON, Head of Kitchen Gardeners International
in conversation with
Prince Louis Albert de Broglie

Only a very confident frenchman could wear a grass-green suit with red socks to a public event or perhaps only a prince could get away with it, especially in New York where black is de rigeur.  The Prince Gardener, Louis Albert de Broglie exuded such aplomb on Monday night at the Alliance Francaise.  In conversation with Roger Doiron, the Prince spoke about his commitment to growing food and getting others to do the same.  His Chateau "houses" the national collection of tomatoes...over 650 varieties.

The Prince uses his chateau and his name to promote the slow food movement.  As proponent of biodiversity, he is looking for ways, in a typically french fashion, to continue the rural heritage of France.  How to create more vegetable gardens, but also how to create more gardeners.  His answer:  passing on knowledge from  grandparents to grandchildren. Not understanding the power of internet, the Prince sees this 21 century necessity as an interrupter of enjoyment...the enjoyment of cooking and eating a meal, and ultimately forging connections within families. 

In this conservative audience his ideas played well. Le Chateau de la Bourdaisiere (home of the Prince) was once the residence of royal mistresses:  Marie Gaudin, petite amie of Francois I, and Gabrielle d'Estrees, a favorite of Henri IV.  Today, you too can enjoy the chateau turned bed and breakfast and contemplate the world's food crisis from a luxury suite in Loire Valley.

Le Chateau de la Bourdaisiere

Conservatoire de la Tomate
Houses over 650 varieties of tomatoes

Variétés de tomates vertes :
ananas vert / green pineapple
aunt ruby's german green
charlie's green
cherokee green
dorothy green
gold and green
green bell pepper
green grapes
green pineapple
green sausage
green velvet
green zebra
greeskin longkeeper
lime green
marmande verte
moldovan green
raisin vert
russian green
tasty evergreen
Variétés de tomates rouges :
abraham lincoln
ailsa craig
altajsky urozajnij
amater's dream
andrew rahart's jumbo red
api rouge
apple tree
basket vee
believe it or not
bell star
belle angevine
berkshire polish
bielo russian
big's red
bloody butcher
blue beech
bonne du Roussillon
bonny best
box car willie
brandwine off the vine
brin de muguet
buckbee's beefsteak
budaï torpe
bulgarian triumph
calabash rouge
casaque rouge
cerisette lylia
chair de bœuf
chair de bœuf précoce
champ martin
cherokee red
cherry chadwick
cherry delight
climbing trip
cœur de bœuf de ligure
cœur de bœuf de nice
cœur de bœuf géant reif red
cœur de bœuf géant schilling giant
cœur de velours
costaluto fiorentino
costaluto genovese
dad's sunset
de barrao 2
de berao
de calabre
delicious burpee
des andes
dix doigts de naples
double rich
doucette de Fougères
early chatham
early cherry
early red chief
early siberian
egyptian tomb
erika d'australie
first in the field
flavour steak
gardener's delight/delice du jardinier
géante d'Espagne
géante d'orenburg
gem state
german head
german red strawberry
giant paste
goutte d'eau
grandma mary's paste
grandpa's cock's plume
grapolli d'inverno
grappoly corbarino
grosse de Rodelle
grosse du Gers
hight country
hog heart
howard german
imur prior beta
indian dark violet
ingegnoli gigante
jersey devil
joie de la table
large german cherry
liberty bell
lida ukrainian
livingstone's globe
livingston's favourite
marc twain
market miracle
marmande garnier
martino's roma
master caruso
matt's wild cherry
mémé de Beauce
merveille des marchés
miel du Mexique / zuckertraube
money maker
mont athos
mortgage lifter
mortgage lifter red
mule team
napoli ischia
new worker
new zealand pear
northern light
old brooks
olga's biggest
opal homestead
oregon eleven
oregon spring
oregon spring bush
pantano romanesco
peacevine / peacevine cherry
pearson improved
pêche rouge
peruvian bush
petit cœur de bœuf
poire rouge
polish linguisa
pomme rouge
pomme rouge de Montpellier
ponderosa red
porter's pride
potiron écarlate
prairie fire
principe borghese
prune rouge
purple koning
pusa ruby
red brandwine potato leaf
red dawn
red robin
red rock
red siberian
red star
red suprême
reine de Sainte-Marthe
reinette fruitée
roi humbert
roma paste
roma vf
romeo giant
ropreco paste
russe 3
russian giant
russsian 117
saint Mar
salad master
salt spring sunrise
san marzano
san marzano retorta
sasha altaï
scarlet beef / chair de bœuf scarlet
seattle best of all
silvery fir tree
spring king early
star fire
sub artic maxi
sub artic plenty
super colosse
super italian paste
surprise siberia
tecoh tepee
teton de venus
tondino di maduria
trèfle du togo
tropic two orders
uralskij mnogoplodnij
varne blad
visitation valley
wanda's potato top
washington cherry

Variétés de tomates roses :
amish potato leaf
amish salad
anna russian
arkansas traveler
aunt ginny's purple
bear claw
big white pink stripes
black mountain pink
blue ridge mountain
brandwine joyce's strain
brandwine pink
brandywine glicks strain
brandywine sudduth's strain
burcham new generation
canabec rose
canary rose
caspian pink
chair de bœuf una hartsock
clear pink
cœur de bœuf akers
cœur de bœuf doux
cœur de bœuf japonais
cœur de bœuf russe
cœur de bœuf slankard
cœur de bœuf sweet heart
cœur de bœuf yasha yougoslavian
côtelée de Valence
crnkovic yougoslave
dingo eye
eva's purple ball
florida pink
fuzzy pêche rose
german giant
german johnson
german johnson pink
giant belgium
grégori altaï
june pink
kentucky plate
large pink bulgarian
livingston's beauty
livingston's magnus
livingston's main crop pink
magnum beefsteak
maritime pink
marizol purple
maryland pink
mexican potato leaf
micado violettor
mission dike
missouri pink love apple
mortgage lifter estler
mortgage lifter mullens
mortgage lifter rieger
mother russia
olena ukrainien
olirose de Saint Domingue
omar's lebanese
pava baca
pearly pink cherry
pêche rose
pink ping-pong
podland pink
pomme d'amour
ponderosa pink
porter pink
prudens purple
prune rose
purple perfect
rose 1884
rose de berne
rose du Liban
royale des guineaux
tennessee sweet
thaï pink
tidwell german
tiffen mennonite
watermelon beefsteak
wealthy frost resistant
zapotec pink ribbed
zapotek pink plated
Tomates noires :
ananas noire
black aisberg
black cherry
black ethiopian
black from tula
black pear
black prince
black sea man
black star
black zebra
blue fruit
brandwine black
brown cherry
brown flesh
charbonnière du Berry
cherokee chocolate
cherokee purple
cuban black
de barao black
mauve de russie
noire charbonneuse
Noire de coseboeuf
noire de crimée
noire russe
nuits australes / southern nights
paul robeson
prune noire
purple calabash
Variétés de tomates jaunes ou oranges :
broad ripple
amana orange
andine jaune
azoychka russian
banana legs
beam's yellow pear
big yellow beefsteak
caro rich
chuck's yellow beefsteak
cocktail clémentine
cœur de bœuf jaune
cœur de bœuf orange
cœur de pigeon
de barao gold
délice d'or
dixie golden giant
dr. Wiches yellow
earl of edgecombe
ester hesse yellow
fruity yellow
gelb dettilwein
gold dust
gold medal
gold nugget
golden boy
golden jubilee
golden queen
golden sunray
golden treasure
huge giant yellow
ida gold
ivory egg
jaune à farcir
jaune côtelée de Montlouis
jaune de la Saint-Vincent
jaune flammée
kaki coing
kaki ronde
kellog's breakfast
kentucky beefsteak orange
lemon bush
lenny and gracie's
lillian's yellow heirloom
livingston's golden ball
mandarin cross
marmande jaune
mortagage lifter yellow
mountain gold
nebraska wedding
new sun
old wyandotte
olga yellow round chicken
orange banana
orange bourgeois
orange king
orange queen
poire jaune
pomifera lutea
ponderosa golden
ponderosa golden railroad strain
potato leaf yellow
prize of the trial
prune jaune
roma jaune
russian lemon
russian persimmon
sibirische orange
sol gold
sweet orange 2
taxi yellow
teton de Vénus jaune
verna orange
wapsinicon peach
white beefsteak
yellow belgium
yellow brandwine
yellow canary
yellow perfection
yellow ruffled
yellow stuffer
Varietes de tomatoes blanche
blanche d'Anvers
blanche de Picardie
blanche du Canada
cherry ghost
cœur de bœuf blanc
cream sausage
great white / grosse blanche
mirabelle blanche
pêche blanche
petite pomme blanche
pink white
poil blanc
poire blanche
snow white
white beauty
white potato leaf
white princess
white queen
white rabbit
white wonder
Variétés de tomates bigarées :
(Heirloom tomatoes)
alleghany sunset
barnes mountain yellow
big rainbow
burracker's favorite
deweese streaked
marizol gold
marizol gold cherry
marvel striped
mary robinson german bicolor
mennonite german gold
mortgage lifter pesta strain
oaxacan jewel
old german
pink grapefruit
regina's yellow
schimmeig creg
schimmeig striped
speckled roman / striped roman
striped cavern
striped german
tiger tom
tuxhorn's red and yellow