Ceramics Monthly: What was the concept for the exhibition “American Monolith” in which you collaborated with Sow True Seeds?

Lindsay Rogers: The work in American Monolith was my first attempt to challenge the idea of monoculture as a production method in the American food landscape. For this exhibition, I presented a series of unfired, bone-dry vessels that were built out of local clay and embedded with seeds. The forms of these vessels were, in essence, baskets. However, their design was intended to mimic some of the visual attributes of the iconic barn silhouetted on the agricultural landscape. In the small container of each basket, I placed very specific seeds—seeds that championed sustainable growing practices like planting cover crops, companion planting, succession planting, and seasonal planting. After the exhibition was over, all of the vessels were broken into pieces and their elements repurposed: the seeds planted, the vegetables grown, the food harvested, and the new generation of seeds saved.

Like previous projects of mine, this show aimed to use the beauty of the seed as well as our cultural familiarity with the clay vessel to introduce the audience to sustainable practices in food cultivation. In the end, my aim was to give the audience a visual metaphor that spoke in support of another option for the American agricultural landscape.

CM: What types of seeds were on display in the pots?

LR: There were 15 different types of seeds in the exhibition. Seeds such as buckwheat and crimson clover were used in a series of cover crop vessels. Complimentary crops like tomato, basil, and marigold seeds were used to focus on companion planting. Radish, lettuce, and carrot seeds emphasized succession planting. Lastly, I used the seeds from several cool-weather crops, like kale and onion, to emphasize the importance of seasonality, temperature, and crop timing as a critical part of sustainable agriculture. 

CM: What are a few of the responses you received from the viewers, either in person or after the exhibitions?

LR: The overall response to the work was positive. Most of the people who contacted me after the opening to talk about the exhibition were already invested in sustainable agriculture as a cultural value system. However, I think the most prevalent response I received during the opening was shock when I told people that I was going to willingly break the pieces and plant the seeds.

CM: How were the elements of the vessels repurposed? Was the clay reclaimed, or the parts reused in some way?

LR: With the exception of the paint used on the wall, every element of the exhibit was recycled. All of the basket wire was repurposed in my garden as ties for my fruiting plants. All of the clay that was embedded with seeds was planted and the rest of the clay was reclaimed, and still sits in my studio waiting to be used for another project.

CM: Are these vessel forms something you are considering making in a permanent form? Why or why not?

LR: No, I don’t think I would ever make these specific forms permanent. While I really enjoyed the final composition of some of these pieces, the process of letting go and the focus on transformation was critical to the content. In addition to this, by letting the audience know that these objects were ephemeral, I was able to make them feel the emotional weight of the labor that went in to the work. I think these ideas are just so relatable in both making art and growing food.

Topics: Ceramic Artists