Untitled (EHR-36), from Sweet Corruptions
by Emilie Clark
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Since 2003 I have inserted myself into the work of Victorian women scientists and naturalists. My practice involves painting, drawing, archival research, writing, installation and sculpture. The work emerges from a wide range of substances: from carnivorous plants to taxidermy and compost. Treating my studio like a laboratory, I literally restage much of these women's research.
My current project, Sweet Corruptions, departs from the work of Ellen H. Richards, a sanitary chemist who studied air, water, and food. Richards was the first female student and then professor at MIT, and brought the word ecology into the English language. Like that of my other historical hosts, Richards's research involves transformations of organic material that suggest both fluid categories and vast networks of interconnectivity.
Following Richards's air, water and food taxonomy, I interweave them through the provocation offered by Whitman's poem This Compost: Such sweet things are made of such corruptions. I see compost not just as a mode of regeneration, but as an engine of cosmology. Both her practice and mine involve careful testing, sustained empirical inquiry, structured interaction with daily life, and ultimately world building. The watercolors and paintings have been largely based on the process of preserving my family's food waste. But rather than simple representations of composting, they are attempts to find graphic means to embody the life world of de- and recomposing objects, to enact this process at different scales with pigment.
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