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Columbian X-change

(work in progress)

An open-ended series of monumental busts of Christopher Columbus. These works are designed to exist outdoors in clay, with industrially farmed potatoes embedded in the head. Over time the potatoes sprout and take over the form. 

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My clay original (above) is molded after a plaster reproduction of Joseph Gott's 1830s copy of Raimondo Trentanove's 1817 idealized bust of Columbus, commissioned for the Pantheon in Rome. Gott's plaster casts are found across the US.

Subsequent versions of Columbian X-change are pressed clay reproductions (with fresh potatoes) from a plaster mold of my original, in an unlimited edition, and with varying ingredients. 

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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 vulnerable species (including ours.) 

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. 

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

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