This week, we roughly affixed a 24×36″ black and white piece of each design to the side of the grain elevator as an initial inquiry into how the images are negotiating the massive scale of the elevator. With a few site conditions to resolve – mainly the clearing of brush on the city right-of-way – we worked our way to a silo on the west side we could access and set up our ladder. As daylight dwindled, each piece seemed like a postage stamp on the enormous concrete structure, further getting us in touch with the enormity of this project and leaving us even more in awe of the folks at Silo Extreme Outdoor Adventures (Rick Brock and Ron Safarik) who passionately care for and climb this structure day in and day out, and are generously making this project possible.
A majority of this water comes from the Ogallala Aquifer, the largest underground water system in the US, roughly the size of Lake Michigan. Though the aquifer does replenish itself naturally, current levels of irrigation, combined with an increasingly hot and arid climate, create an unsustainable situation. In some areas, water levels in the Ogallala have dropped more than a hundred feet in the last fifty years.
Leaving no struggling animals or marooned boats in its wake, this profound water loss does not lend itself to the types of dramatic scenes which often catapult other environmental issues into the public consciousness. Hidden underground, the alarming depletion of the Ogallala Aquifer literally lacks visibility. When California native, Scott Keyes, began doing research for his Stored Potential submission and for the first time learned of the diminishing Ogallala Aquifer, he saw the potential to make this hidden resource visible. By taking advantage of the silo’s enormous height to create a 1:1 scale model of well 5N 40W28CDA, a groundwater irrigation unit located in Chase County, Nebraska, Keyes creates a tangible snapshot of the region’s precarious relationship to its most invaluable natural resource. Using USGS data gathered since 1970, historical water levels within the well are marked at five year intervals along the silo’s interior – the walls that once contained the commodity created by confluence of sun energy and underground water. The jury agreed that by rendering this important water issue visible, this submission represents a byproduct of the region’s agricultural legacy which is as real and concrete as the abandoned silos on which it is situated.
Scott Keyes currently lives in Waikiki, Hawaii, where he is an architect for the Federal Government, working on projects for N.O.A.A., the National Park Service, and the US Navy. He received his Master of Architecture degree from the University of Toronto and has also studied at the University of Bologna and UCLA. Scott has previously worked for Bruce Mau Design and Diamond and Schmitt & Architects and has had projects featured in Canadian Architect, Spacing Magazine and The National Post.
A neighbor of the towering grain elevator, 10-year old Tinca Joyner found inspiration for her submission from the plants she cultivates in her own backyard. Both a productive farmer and artist, Tinca has lived in Omaha for all of her 10-year life and has been making art and planting seeds for most of it. The Stored Potential jury found the intersection of these two things especially noteworthy in Joyner’s use of reds and oranges to depict the juicy fruit (or is it a vegetable?) in a style representative of Art Nouveau, especially in its tenet of applying artistic design to everyday utilitarian objects, in order to make beautiful things available to everyone. Although Tinca intended for the tomatoes in her drawing to be oriented to the bottom, as a tomato plant often looks like when supporting large bunches of fruit from a plant that commonly out-produces the needs of the grower, Tinca says the guy at Kinkos accidentally scanned her drawing with the tomatoes to the top. Perhaps he knew that placing the bunch of tomatoes at the top of the elevator would maximize their exposure.
At Tinca’s house, her family has a garden set up in the front yard. She loves to choose seeds at the hardware store and watch them grow for harvest. Along with beets, carrots and peas, Tinca has decided to take on the task of growing a watermelon this year along with some poppies and sunflowers. She enjoys painting as well as drawing and always keeps an easel set up at the foot of her bed. She likes to host mini art shows in the stairwell of her house when her family is entertaining. While typically, Tinca likes to work in abstraction, she chose to draw cherry tomatoes for the grain elevator because they are the most fun of all vegetables to draw and eat.
When entrant identities were revealed at the end of the jury day, we discovered that Tinca is daughter of Omaha singer-songwriter Simon Joyner, considered by some as the forefather of the Omaha music scene. Perhaps Tinca will be the forebearer of a burgeoning oversized art-about-agriculture scene?
Perhaps the most simply articulated submission of all, ‘………that Hourglass Figure’ by Bob Trempe, Professor of Architecture at Temple University, was a jury favorite both for its 2D manipulation of a 3D surface, and the method by which he achieves the illusion. Manipulating a convex concrete silo with only an exterior surface is likely a frustrating constraint for an architect. But with a series of simple black dots, Trempe’s submission virtually modifies the geometrical quality of one silo through the draping of a simple gradient pattern. This pattern, designed in the shape of an hourglass, perceptually “tapers” the middle of the silo inward through the patterned shadow image. The pattern of dots creates the shaded quality one would find on a tapered, cylindrical surface.
Bob Trempe’s work as an architect and educator focuses on new methods of information visualization and how resultant emergent information can serve as instruction for architectural production. Thought of as the study of process itself, Bob’s works are typically articulated through repetitious systems, exploiting time-based qualities to notate, visualize, and analyze changes-in-state. Time always plays a critical role in these explorations of natural, man-made, and seemingly intangible phenomena as time is the living, breathing dimension of architecture.
Examples of his research can be seen through his office Dis-section Architectural and Media Design ( DAMD at www.dis-section.com ) as well as professional work with the design office of Verspoor & Trempe. Speculative projects such as “Slpistream” can be seen in the 2006 Birkhauser book “Distinguishing Digital Architecture.” Bob Trempe’s investigate works have been shown nationally and internationally at venues such as the ACM/SIGGRAPH Art Galleries in San Diego CA and New Orleans LA as well as exhibits such as DrawingOut2010 in Melbourne, Australia.
Whether seen as a statement about dwindling food reserves and farming, or simply as a playful gesture executed to make people look twice, ‘……that Hourglass Figure’ will, for the period of 3 months, reinvigorate and reinterpret an architecture of time past. What appears to be a deep breath in will hopefully cause viewers to question perception and shifts in normalcy within the preexisting environment.
For the next 14 weeks, we will be presenting, one by one, each Stored Potential banner and designer. Since we are essentially creating one grand mural through individual perspectives, doing so incrementally seems appropriate leading up to the October 3 giant dinner day.
We’d like to present Week #1 Banner ‘Bacon’ by M. Brady Clark. His image is striking, simple, and speaks volumes about the Midwest. Although it isn’t the ‘beef’ Nebraska is most identified with, nor is it condoned by vegetarian friends, it is nonetheless symbolic and representative of the place and certainly the landscape. The visiting jurors even commented that Omaha is also ‘pork’ town after their weekend in the city. Meat is an important cultural identifier and aptly so since the mastodons crossed the Bering Straight Land Bridge from Asia to North America and entered the Great Plains some 10 million years ago. When the glaciers formed the massive ridges of sand dunes over north central Nebraska 5 million years later, the giant bison entered the picture and from then on, the great plains supported herbivores consuming up to 1,000 pounds of grass per day. As late as the mid-1880s, undisturbed prairie still covered most of the heartland. But following the Civil War when confederate money was worthless in the impoverished South, Texas cattlemen put herds on the trails north to Nebraska. (Nebraska Cattleman Association)
And here is where M.Brady Clark, hailing from Austin, Texas, enters the picture. He is no stranger to Omaha with his graphics work for Saddle Creek’s band Cursive, a connection the jury discovered at the end of the day when the identity of entrants was released, thus explaining the ‘Omaha feel’ to this submission. Aside from Bacon, Clark has spent years in apparel, logo, and print design with an impressive list of clients represented by his companyFour Eyes Are Better Than Two. Although his brainstorming partner is not a pig or cow (I argued that his submission could represent a really long flank), but rather a 6 foot tall taxidermy shark, M. Brady claims that his work is a culmination of the right opportunities mixed with creativity. And that might be precisely what occurred here. According to M. Brady, “My work is simply to use my God-given gift to make things better and more beautiful.” Representing Bacon at nearly 80′ tall, on a grain elevator, might be the perfect combination of literal (grain transfer to animal protein) combined with scale to create abstract beauty.
M. Brady’s ‘Bacon’ is less about specific species of animal, but more about place, consumption, and culture. Juror Mason White declared ‘Bacon’ as ‘out-Warholing’ another submission that directly referenced the quintessential Warhol exhibit The American Supermarket, which depicted a small supermarket where everything – from the produce, canned goods, meat, posters on the wall, etc. – was created by six prominent artists confronting the general public with pop art as the perennial question of what art is (or what it is not). Perhaps Bacon, or less specifically, meat in general, is Midwest art? Or more precisely in the context of the elevator and narrowly shaped silos only to be rivaled by corn……………….stay tuned.
Nonetheless, M. Brady claims his biggest challenge is to design with his client and project in mind first without adding in too much of his own aesthetic. In this instance, Clark’s clever style was a good fit when he claimed that “everything is better with bacon” which I have heard numerous vegetarian friends utter at various breakfast gatherings.
Learn more about Clark’s Bacon Artery Series.