Ever since September 11th, 2001, when the World Trade Center complex in New York was struck by al-Qaeda terrorists and collapsed, killing almost 3,000 people, artist Gary Simpson has been making artwork that sifts through the trauma of those events , visually underscoring our human responsibility to care for the planet we all call home. Indeed, according to today’s astrophysicists, amidst the planets in our solar system, earth alone supports what we call human life. From the vantage point of our ‘aloneness’ in our solar system, it is intriguing and knowing that Simpson’s choice artistic material is the soil of the earth itself.
As word of his art project grew amongst art aficionados, a consortium of friends and acquaintances began to ship the artist small samples of soil from countries they were passing through or traveling to. Collected and shipped to the US either via DHL or UPS, all the soil samples that appear in his work have been processed through the USA . In this manner, Simpson began to amass a collection of soils from the nations that compose the United Nations. His collection in part celebrates the sense that we collectively live on planet earth which we now know is unique within our solar system for supporting life as we know it. All those Star-Trek T.V. shows that helped to spur public support for space explorations, have also granted us a different knowledge than was originally expected.
So, in some very fundamental and important ways, Simpson’s soil samples, different as they are, collectively come to define plant earth as unique and important to everyone on earth. Some of the sample jars are filled with the sands that come from various desert regions while other jars proffer a glimpse of dense soil found in the forested regions of the world. In his most recent work, each soil sample is placed in a small, transparent jar, which is labeled with the date and place of its derivation. In this manner, Simpson’s process simulates scientific methodologies, while building an artistic-visual taxonomy of the earth’s soils.
Conceptually conflating Post-Minimalism and Earth Art, Simpson’s work takes a very serious look at what is happening environmentally in our historical period, arguing that the bigger issue being kicked to the curb repeatedly is the potential imperilment of our planet itself, the sanctity of which has at various times and places been grossly devastated and imperiled.
Rallying for our individual and collective care of the planet we all call home, his sculptures strongly argue for a wake-up call from the sloth of rampant consumerism and averse to and individual and collective care for the planet we all call home.
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