The artist's statement:
I Love Art but (Part 1)
Coyotes kill a lot newborn lambs in our neck of the woods. Therefore, it is always open season on the canines. Most are caught in wire noose traps. Picture wire. Not pretty.
I don’t remember exactly why I asked for the dead coyote. Maybe I just wanted to see one up close and personal, like Joseph Beuys in his piece I Like America. America Likes Me (Remix), the difference being, of course, mine was dead.
Schooled the way I was, but more importantly, already predisposed, there was no getting away from Beuys. Just pulling the carcass from the bed of the pickup truck made it art; yet, now that I had it in my possession, and seeing how it was already starting to stink a bit, if I didn’t do something with it soon, I’d have more than just the animal to contend with.
Most dead animals on the farm get put in the compost piles. Still, Lord knows I didn’t need the coyote to make more compost, as we already had a couple of deer, a few ducks, a feral cat or two, and any number of gophers rotting away under two different piles out in the pasture. That’s a lot of flesh, and too much can make compost go bad. The only solution seemed to be to start a new pile.
What transpired was an homage, complete with visual and auditory references to Beuys’ 1974 performance. Just as I Like America, America Likes Me is his response to the U.S. involvement in Southeast Asia, I Love Art but is a ritualized protest of sorts for this artist. Beuys’ coyote urinated on stacks of Wall Street Journals brought in fresh every day; my coyote decomposes amidst ten years worth of Art in America and ArtForum magazines. Beuys was working his mojo; I am purging an aspect of my PoMo.
About the next phase:
Beuys Mound, and its role in I Love Art but (Part 2)
Seed companies typically go to great lengths to avoid cross-pollination of any two varieties, thereby assuring that the plants’ genetic strains stay pure. Such efforts are not always successful, as was our experience with Armenian Cucumbers one summer. While some of the fruit was as it should be, on other plants I found fruit that did not resemble any other cucurbit, and it tasted bitter. Likewise, in order to avoid similar incidences, and because there was certain to be cross-pollination in our small growing area, we never save seeds, and instead purchased new seed every year.
Still, we live in a rather mild climate, temperate enough that potatoes will volunteer amongst the next year’s rotated crop of lettuce. Likewise, cantaloupe, summer squash and radishes all pop up come springtime, and a lot of those uninvited plants have cross-pollinated with other plant varieties of their ilk. Two years ago we grew an amazing patty pan summer squash that was striped like the Delicata winter squash we grew the year before. Voila! Another new squash variety was born. We sold it to a restaurant and they served it up yet saved the seeds for their personal garden the next year.
I detail this history to set the stage for what the future holds for the compost pile in the video I Love Art but (Part 1). (That pile will hereafter be known as the Beuys Mound.) The compost used to build the Mound was not quite mature. Yet, once it had stopped its conversion process, primarily because it was never ‘turned’ again, a fair amount of uncomposted material remained, including Spaghetti and Delicata winter squash seeds. Both varieties emerged last spring and I cared for the plants for the rest of the growing season. While the deer got their fair share of the squash, I did manage to harvest enough to have a couple meals, and save the seeds of both varieties.
Those seeds, some from the Delicata and some from the Spaghetti squashes, began sprouting in the Beuys Mound this spring. However, after the first month of growth it became apparent that the seeds from the Delicata had germinated into what promised to be stronger plants, so the seedlings from the Spaghetti squash were culled. We currently have six plants growing in the Beuys Mound. I will document their care and growth throughout the summer and early fall until we harvest fruit and can offer the world seeds for a new variety of winter squash, the Beuys.