A sterile white cubicle is transformed into a mysterious earthwork in Lines of the Earth, an installation by artist Kyle Dillehay. This site-specific work, opening Oct. 10 at the Woolworth Building, illuminates the way natural systems – of the human body, of nature’s flora – share an interconnectedness in the grand scheme of life. Upon a white backdrop, Dillehay employs the root systems of plants to show how seemingly disparate systems – of the body (lymphatic, circulatory, reproductive) and the earth (plant vascular, seed and root systems) – are, in fact, similar in purpose and design.
“Since having my two babies, I have become much more concerned with the quality of the food that we eat,” says Dillehay, a recognized sculptor, and an instructor of sculpture and photography at Tacoma Community College. “So, I have been growing much of my own food using heirloom varietals in hopes of avoiding any genetically modified plants and obtaining the highest quality of food possible. As these food-bearing plants mature and die, I remove them from the soil and dry them in order to preserve their root structures as much as possible.” The plants find a second life as elements in Dillehay’s art work. In Lines of the Earth, they spring from lifeless white walls and reach toward a suspended cube of fertile earth, thus mirroring the human instinct to find a quality environment to thrive in. The image is a compelling one: As societal pressures, consumerism, industrialization and environmental degradation increase worldwide, so does the need to produce food – whether from pure organic or genetically modified sources.
In an earlier installation, Dispersal, Dillehay explored a fascination with seeds and their dispersal mechanisms, which he sees as a metaphor for the circulation and longevity of knowledge, as well as representing the evolution of life itself. Dillehay says the plant metaphor can be stretched to include non-living, physical entities such as high-technology and the Web, which form a near-universal network for human consciousness and community. Both cultural and biological diversity are necessary to the health of the species.
An accomplished sculptor who has executed large-scale public works, Dillehay is currently working with TCC students to build an iron-melting furnace for the sculpture department, as well as designing and constructing a peace monument for the campus. Lines of the Earth, Woolworth Building, 11th & Broadway , Oct. 9, 2010 – Jan. 5, 2011. www.sculpture.org/portfolio/sculptorPage.php?sculptor_id=1001643