December 20, 2021
This week we recognize the work of artist Susan Leibovitz Steinman.
“Working with diverse groups of local stakeholders, I conceive of, design and collectively create conceptual gardens that meld art, ecology and community action. I’ve been doing environmentally-based artwork since 1989-90, when there were few models for this particular work and little to no interest in “urban food as art.”
“EOE (Equal Opportunity Eating) projects are living sculptural installations manifested as organic collaborative gardens. They model how to grow healthy food with little money and less land - critical survival skills for ecologically and economically disadvantaged neighborhoods. Counterintuitive to art world propriety, my EOE projects are most successful when disseminated, copied, adapted or emulate. Streetfront or in schoolyards, EOE works provide more than healthy food: they are a meeting place, an oasis and a point source for initiating economic organizing and revitalization for the larger community.”
Sweet Survival, a site-specific work, honors a prominent Sonoma County crop that has succeeded over millennia, largely due to sweetness. On the Museum grounds, five commercially-grafted apple trees, mulched with pink quartz, are surrounded by nitrogen fixing wintergreens over winter, and planted in a pentagon-shaped raised bed constructed of five salvaged 11-foot-long French doors. The design refers to every apple’s interior five-pointed star, its five seed chambers, with five+ genetically diverse seeds. The exterior landscape mimicked a native Sonoma grass fieldstone meadow.
Sweet Survival is a demonstration for educating passersby and Museum visitors about the genetically diverse seeds that one tree can grow. Steinman invited the public to collect seeds at Museum tasting events. Students from Santa Rosa Jr. College propagated saplings from the collected seeds at the school’s nearby learning farm. The wild saplings were then added to the Museum orchard the following spring. All trees were donated locally upon dismantling, spreading biodiverse apple trees throughout Sonoma County.
Susan Leibovitz Steinman creates large scale public installations with multiple stakeholder participation to address ecological, social and economic concerns and community-voiced needs. Based in California, she is an “itinerant social sculptor” who travels globally to create street front, temporal, improvisational, performative artworks. Her EOE Projects (equal opportunity eating) model low cost green techniques and social strategies on public land for public use, food rights, natural asset protection, bioremediation, ecological revitalization and tourism for clean local survival. Steinman received her MFA with High Distinction in Sculpture from the California College of Art, Oakland/San Francisco. steinmanstudio.com
Featured Images: ©Susan Leibovitz Steinman, Sweet Survival, 2006-2009.