Feb 10th 2012

Heidi Norton: Reasons to Cut Into the Earth

@ Johalla Projects

1821 W Hubbard St, Suite 110, Chicago 60622

Opening Friday, February 10th, from 7PM - 10PM

On view through Wednesday, February 29th


– An archaeological dig: a prevalent way to recover human history is through archaeological excavation. Archaeology is a loose discipline. The methods of unearthing are scientific and restrained, but the things you look for when digging like an archaeologist are numerous and sometimes completely unknown.
-To see what’s growing underneath. She dug holes into the earth all summer, her hair tied up in a bandana. She built a studio in the woods, using the holes she dug as molds into which she poured colored wax, capturing flowers, insects, and weeds in the viscous bright liquid. (When big chunks of glaciers get stuck in earth, they create giant pools of ice that result in holes when they melt. Geologists call these holes “kettles,” and lakes often form in these depressions.) When she was a young girl in West Virginia, she dug holes to explore the parts of the world that were just barely invisible but still attainable to her. The work that she did digging those holes was unprofessionalized and undifferentiated. She could have been looking for fossils or diamonds or evidence of human history before her.
– A geology sample: this object contains a hidden story that helps to analyze the history of the land. Geology samples are beautiful tubes of stratified sediment, about as wide as tennis ball containers, created through special methods of drilling. You have to learn the language of the colors and textures of compacted sediment layering the cylinder to tell a story about the hidden parts of the earth. See: archaeology.
-Quarries and mines: this is a very violent thing to do. People who are paid to do this work often die. Sometimes it creates lakes to swim in after. (She grew up swimming in a quarry, so even to this day she cannot think of quarries without the warmth of that memory coming over her.) With quarries and mines, you are looking for something valuable, for treasures that you will bring elsewhere.
-Gardening: this is also a fairly violent way to cut into the earth, depending on what you’re gardening and whether you plan to pull it up or look at.

[Page 5]

In previous works, Norton uses prefabricated molds in a controlled studio environment to create geometric forms of wax and resin with plants embedded inside. In these newer works, she take these traditional studio materials and cast them into the earth, layering plants and other life inside.

Above, “Page 5”, is an excerpt from a chapter in “Art in the Earth: A Field Guide from the Soil to the Studio”, an artist book that will be included in the exhibition. Heidi is collaborating on this book project with writer Monica Westin. One version, using appropriated album boxes, will take the form of an artist monograph and field guide. A second variation will be available as a limited edition artist book.

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