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Columbian X-change

2021 - ongoing

A series of monumental busts of Christopher Columbus made with clay and industrially farmed potatoes. The busts are designed to live outdoors, sprout and degrade over time. The work interrupts a continuum from the Industrial Revolution - when the introduction of the exponentially-reproductive potato fueled an exploding population of workers - and subsequent appropriative colonial culture with a slow cycle of growth, reproduction and decay.


Columbian X-change i, red clay and industrially farmed potatoes

Columbian X-change i (above) is a reproduction of a reproduction of a reproduction. My clay original is molded after a Caproni plaster cast of Raimondo Trentanove's 1817 idealized bust of Columbus, commissioned for the Pantheon in Rome. Plaster reproductions of Trentanove's Christopher Columbus are found in commemorative public collections across the United States.

This bust was destroyed in order to make a press mold for Columbian X-change ii.

CX on grey.jpg
CX sprouting grey side.jpg

Columbian X-change ii, mold-pressed red clay and industrially farmed potatoes. 

Columbian X-change ii is a reproduction of Columbian X-change i, made in a plaster press mold. This allows for mass production of this sculpture, as long as the mold survives. Pressed clay marks and mold seams are apparent on its surface. 

Columbian X-change iii is currently in progress and will be on display at Swale House on Governor's Island, NYC, June-November 2023 as part of Re-Imagining Conservation: From The Ground Up, curated by Creature Conserve in partnership with the Urban Soils Institute. Columbian X-change iii is made from pressed red clay, industrially farmed potatoes and fermented human manure. As it decomposes, the nutritious compost will feed the soil around the monument.

The colonial history of the potato is intricately tied to modern industrial farming and today's pesticide industry. A post-Columbian import from the Andes, potatoes are one of the US's top commercially farmed products, commonly used for processed and fast foods, as well as providing an affordable grocery store staple.


Potatoes were widely introduced in Europe to nourish the workforce of the Industrial Revolution. European nobles wore potato blossoms to public events to encourage the working classes to embrace the new food, which was cheap and easy to grow. Population charts from this time closely correlate to the exponential reproductive capacities of the potato plant.


Susceptible to pests and blight, this tuber can only be farmed monoculturally with varied and frequent chemical interventions, at great cost to the land, waterways, and countless interspecies communities (humans included.) 

Wild potatoes in their native habitat are toxic to humans, but can be consumed if eaten with clay, which adsorbs to the toxins and removes them harmlessly from the body. 


A plaster edition of this work exists to meet the sterility and longevity requirements of historical collections and museums.

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