Altarscapes; Reliquaries of Place

“If you have looked hard at the manner of things, if you have surveyed the troubles of our time, and cannot discover a way forward, do not despair. Do better, grieve: mount an altar to the sensuous feelings of loss that swim through you. In the stinging fumes that redden your eyes, you might partly recover a clear vision of where to go . . . In that stillness, entire worlds churn.” – Dr. Bayo Akomolafe

Altarscapes to note and to name the sacred in this place, at this time. To note and name the ways in which I’ve altered; have been altered by these ecologies. To find ceremony in the grief, the re-membering, and the reimagining.

Cecil’s Altar for Along the River Margins

Tree Cross Sections, hand processed and fired clay sourced from Piedmont (cecil) soil, lichen, wildflowers, mud-dauber’s nest, gypsum. Respite in the Round, North Carolina. 2020

For the Riparian Corridor—for that space that holds both the rematriation of land and a stream whose meandering edges are held in banks that hold fast the nutrients that spill down hills between roots of trees.

If it’s true that streams both shape and are shaped by that which they contain (& drain), and it’s true that a riparian corridor partners with terra and stream in equal measure, then maybe filling these vessels with usnea lichen will teach me to anchor myself in the small and manageable. And asters might teach me to hold space for the wistfulness for things that almost were. And maybe, placing gypsum rock will help me feel into the layers of strata’s memory of an incomprehensible deep time. Maybe placing the abandoned organ-pipe mud dauber’s nest helps me know better, the interiors of spaces in which we all learn how to be alone together.

May mounting this alter, help me find the poetics in the science that rock becomes a living soil the moment it is exposed, in what becomes, a slow deep transformation. That to name and to know soil, we need to know the parent rock in which it comes from. To know this soil breathes in a way that its bedrock couldn’t and wouldn’t.

Vessels were created with Cecil red clay, from folded and faulted metamorphic (read: changing in form) Piedmont bedrock. Clay was collected from bottom of an uprooted tree, processed along the river, then pit-fired in evening campfire.

a container for shame, signatures in leaves

Tumbleweed, thread, cheesecloth, glass, copper foil, eating-damaged leaves, hand-dyed wool.

Tumbleweed, collected, hollowed, sculpted, and weaved together with cheesecloth written over with shames carries. Eating damaged leaves carrying unique leaf signatures pressed in glass to create portals to move through once shame is placed in the container that can aptly hold it.

Where Does It Hurt? Under( )growth; Under( )story; a Field Survey

Tin cans, glass jars, found shoes, digital prints, bark, almond flowers, juniper. Edge of Joya Arte y Ecología and Sierra de María

I’m met with stillness on what used to be the farm of the Gasquez family. In the 60s, subsistence farming during the Franco dictatorship became too hard, and the family made the choice to leave. Remnants of the Gázquez’s belongings are buried shallowly in the dirt. Shoes, beer cans, glass bottles, farming equipment, and pieces of pottery. This altar was arranged from these pieces meditating on the grief of having to abandon intimate relationship with land, when outside systems make self sustenance in growing food crop for family implausible.

Surrounding the Cortijada farm, is the national park Sierra de María, covered in pine trees with an abundance of life in the understory and overstory. But just at the edge of the farm, is an orchard of pine trees spaced out with calculation, with no undergrowth, an orchard grown for the purpose of turpentine tapping, and grown from government subsidiaries despite the many wildly growing pines just a few yards away. Altar arranged with questions of what it means to abandon land and body, regenerate, rewild in sites of abandonment. How do we be different with each other; how do we hold the harm and transform it? Offering it up to the collective: where does it hurt?

On my last morning at the farm, I returned the natural and discarded materials I collected along the farm to one place—an offering for the grove: what hurts under( )growth; under( )story?