DIRT: Inside Landscapes

A two-part project at the Samuel Dorsky Museum in New Paltz, NY, as the museum's 2021 Artist in Residence. My aim was to use the word 'dirt' as a way in to opening a public discussion about contemporary relationships with the local land, dissolving in the process the neat barriers between the museum, the community and the landscape.

An exhibition of local landscape works from the museum's permanent collection, ranging from Thomas Cole and George Inness to contemporary installation and photographic works, asked visitors to reconsider how we look at landscapes. Labels prompted an investigation of each artist's personal relationship with the land, while wall texts introduced a basic historical context of pre- and post-colonial local land uses, concepts of ownership, an introduction to environmental racism, and addressed the myth of human separation from local ecologies. 

DIRT Collection view.jpg

Opposite the landscape works, a growing organism of public associations with 'dirt' appeared on the museum wall, next to a cabinet display containing a definition and etymology of the word 'dirt'. People generously contributed their drawings, memories and thoughts, spanning a wide range of experiences: 'dirt' as beloved site of play, source of shame, welcome and unwelcome in specific contexts, connections to food, family and childhood, illicit gossip, self worth, with polarised tactile associations. The public additions created a subterranean landscape under a handwritten horizon of questions, forming the iconic Mohonk skyline visible from the Dorsky.


The invitation to participate was extended beyond the museum, through workshops and social media, to high schoolers and the New Paltz and Poughkeepsie communities. This portion of the project will continue beyond the residency, using as a base the instagram page @dirt.scapes .

Links for DIRT: Inside Landscapes

Artist talk on youtube

Dorsky exhibition webpage

Instagram project page @dirt.scapes

Works from the exhibition:

Thomas Cole, Lines to my sketchbook (poem), sketchbook, 1828

George Inness: Keene Valley, Adirondacks, 1885

Stefan Hirsch, Clouds, Waves and Rocks, 1941

John Pfahl, Salt Pile with Bagels, 1976

N. Jay Jaffee, Rock Detail #3, Saugerties, N.Y., 1980

Peter Iannarelli, This Land Is My Land And This Land Is Your Land, 2007

Sharon Core, Drive-Thru, Kingston, 2005

Jean-Marc Superville Sovak, A-Historical Landscape no.7, Weehawken, 2019

(Images pending)