Thursday, April 30, 2009

The Prowess of Weeds

Jessica Balsam is overwhelmed by the prowess of weeds. She was once driven to tears when surveying the bindweed aggressively twining its way around her yard. Her pulse quickens when the scotch broom blooms along the interstate. She invents elaborate schemes to stop its spread, usually involving trenches, fire, and sharp apparatuses that attach to her car.

However powerful they appear to be, though, weeds are nothing more than introduced species that depend on us – and our habit of disturbing soil – for survival. Michael Pollan sums it up in this early essay, “Weeds are not the Other. Weeds are us.”

It is this fascination that prompted Jessica to create a series of works that commemorate weeds that haunt Tacoma. The comics on her Weed Tins tell snippets of how the weeds came to inhabit our disturbed plots and forgotten corners. Luther Burbank introduced the Himalayan Blackberry as a hardier alternative to its native cousin. Lady Bird Johnson’s Highway Beautification Act of 1965 ushered in an era of non-native plantings, probably including scotch broom along I-5. Dandelion, as we all know, was brought to the New World as food. It was a favorite of Jessica's grandfather, who ate it in salad while everyone else had iceberg lettuce.

Jessica Balsam, Weeds of Tacoma Tin #3: Bindweed, tin, pen and ink, 4½ (height) x 3¼ (diameter) inches, 2009.

Jessica Balsam is a part of the Telephone Room Gallery's Hello! show, on view from February 18 to April 30, 2009. Viewable by appointment—please email us. Don't be shy.

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