Soil Monoliths from the Maynard Fosberg Collection - Mare Blocker

Soil Monoliths from the Maynard Fosberg Collection – Mare Blocker. Photo: Mare Blocker

Dirt? Having grown up on an island of a farm in a sea of dirt, I tend to think of it as an inexhaustible resource when I think of it at all. My trusty, well-worn Roget’s is even less helpful, with words like impurity, filth, and dregs being the first of several “synonyms”, none which even come close to expounding the wonder that is dirt. How we perceive dirt is, of course, up to each of us. We see it, smell it, feel it, and even taste it without truly appreciating how much our lives depend on the soil we walk on. More than an inconvenience that comes off in the shower at the end of the day, laundered out of our clothes, or vacuumed up by irate mothers everywhere, dirt enriches our lives, from the food we eat, to the simple pleasures of walking barefoot in the soft crumbly soil between the rows of a wheat field or the memories of making mud pies as a child.

Come Celebrate the Sacred Soil by Dr. Bob Pliny

Come Celebrate the Sacred Soil by Dr. Bob Pliny. Photo: Dr. Bob Pliny

Forgotten memories is not what brought me to DIRT?, an exhibition curated by Lucia Harrison, and currently on display at Collins Library, the University of Puget Sound.  Tending to take dirt for granted, I came to see how other book artists had expressed themselves on the subject. More than just a celebration of artists and their work, I quickly realized the exhibition allows us to experience, dirt in all of its manifestations. Greeting us as we enter the exhibition , A coyote leaps/pounces on an unsuspecting hare in a frozen but macabre dance of life and death in the soil. Fossils entombed by time and mud share their space with Katydids staring out at us with bulbous eyes from their glass cases.   On a separate table, a microscope invites us to take a closer look at the ecosystem within dirt and the forest plants that depend on dirt for their survival. And of course there are the books created by artists from across the world celebrating in poetry, prose and visual art, the wonder that is DIRT?  Lost in the mesmerizing patterns that emerge under the microscope,  I finally rise to leave,  inspired to return home and scoop up a handful of compost, letting it trickle through my fingers as I smell it’s intoxicating aroma.

Twelve Orders Twelve Verses - Jan Owen & Justine Owen

Twelve Orders Twelve Verses – Jan Owen & Justine Owen. Photo: Jan Owen & Justine Owen

Books70Earth by Irmari-Nacht

Books70Earth by Irmari-Nacht. Photo: Irmari-Nacht








Neither the images or this blog can do the exhibition DIRT? justice.  It must be seen in it’s entirety to appreciate it’s full capacity to inspire, educate, and instill wonder about a subject we tend to forget about.  More than something to merely look at, DIRT? invites us to interact with the exhibiton itself by participating in a series of events listed below.  Be sure to visit www.pugetsound.edu for an introduction and a complete catalog of the work in the exhibition, in addition to more information about the exhibit.

Postcard_FrontAugust 6, 2015 to December 4, 2015
Collins Library, the University of Puget Sound


    • Exhibition Opening – September 10, 2015 from 5:30 – 8:00 p.m.
      Reception will be held from 5:30 – 7:00 p.m. Light refreshments will be served. Curator Lucia Harrison will then give a lecture entitled “Intersections:  How Artists and Scientists Can Collaborate to Create Environmental Awareness” from 7:00 – 8:00 p.m.
    • Art/Science Salon – September 17, 2015 from 4:30 – 7:30 p.m.
      Tour the exhibit and attend a talk by Lucia Harrison (Visual Arts) and Abir Biswas (Geology) from The Evergreen State College.
    • Educator and Student Night – September 24, 2015 from 4:00 – 7:00 p.m.
      Learn about “Staying Healthy with Polluted Soils” with Walt Burdsall from the Tacoma Smelter Plume Project and “Combining Art, Literature and Science in the Classroom” with Lucia Harrison.
    • Earth Pigments:  Family Reading Hour & Hands-On Activity October 3, 2015 from 10:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m

Join members of Puget Sound Greek Life for stories about soil from 10:00-11:00
Afterwards from 11:00-1:00, make acrylic, egg tempera, and watercolor with soil pigments alongside Curator Lucia Harrison.

    • Dirt? Poets Reflect on Soils and the Environment – October 15, 2015 from 6:30 – 8:00 p.m.
      A Poetry Reading with Regional Poets featured in the Dirt? Exhibition. A celebration in conjunction with Tacoma Arts Month.

All events are open to the public and will take place in Collins Library.


Curator Lucia Harrison stands with her work, Ancient Forests of Frying Pan Creek at Collins Library

Curator Lucia Harrison stands with her work, Ancient Forests of Frying Pan Creek at Collins Library

Blog by Mark Hoppmann

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