Saturday, January 31, 2009

road trip diaries

the first of several posts about my road trip last soon...

September 1: Los Gatos to Pomona

En route I listed to invisible 5 (, although I will admit that I missed several cues and probably had an incomplete experience. It would be easier to do with someone else manning the stereo. I caught the majority of entries, and over and over again was impressed by what a great project that is. A similar audio tour approach could make a difference in a variety of environments.

Heather is working at Scripps Library in Claremont College. It was great to see her (she's been in North Carolina for two years prior). We watched I'm Not There and ate Fakin Bacon. Here she is in her beautiful office at the library:

September 2: Pomona to Phoenix

After an excellent breakfast with Heather and some really strong iced coffee, I plowed through route 10 to Phoenix. I've spent a fair amount of time on 10. Last time I drove it, I was the only passenger car except for a few cars broken down on the side of the road. It was easily 120 degrees outside and I remember feeling insane for being out there. This time wasn't as hot and there were plenty of other cars. My favorite part of route 10 is all the windmills in eastern California.

In Phoenix I stayed with my aunt Lynne. Her son Kaaba had left for Iraq a day or two before I arrived, so I helped her put together a care package. I always send him tea, apparently the tea selection sucks on base. This is his fourth or fifth deployment, so we're almost used to it, but never completely at ease while he's gone. When I arrived he had apparently just called and complained about how he wasn't even flying (he's a pilot in the Air Force) so he didn't even know why he was there.

I met Lynne's new girlfriend Joan (her partner of 21 years died last year) and we ate macaroni and cheese at a restaurant near her house in Gilbert. She is talking about moving into Phoenix proper, and I think she should. Gilbert is pretty sterile, straight, and boring, even for Arizona…

September 3: Phoenix to Navajo National Monument (Botanical Preserve)

On my way out of town I stopped by a botanical preserve and stole some prickly pear pads from this gorgeous plant.

I'm sure I wasn't exactly allowed to do this, but the plant looked to be very healthy and capable of recovering. In order to grow prickly pear, you just cut a pad, let it scab over, then stand it up in some dirt. The pads I took in Phoenix stayed in a paper bag in the back of my car until I got back to California, when I stuck them in the greenhouse. Jury is still out if the greenhouse is the best environment for them. It might be too humid.

I drove on to Navajo National Monument, which would have been a gorgeous camping stop if it weren't for the idiot man who asked me for my phone number while I was looking at the monument. I said no, I'm not giving it to you, and he said, "oh, that's OK, I'll just follow you." So I started walking away really fast and eventually attached myself to a group of tourists, going back down the mountain and back up with them. I saw him later in the campsite but I don't think he saw me. Needless to say, I didn't sleep very well.

This is the monument, and my tent.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

seeds ordered

I've had great experiences with my seed provider, Plants of the Southwest. I just ordered a ton of piñon nut seeds from them. When I visited in September, their store was just lovely, with a great little cafe too. It's quite close to busy streets in Santa Fe but you'd never know--feels like you're hours outside of town.

Friday, January 23, 2009

mah visit

Earlier this week I went to the Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History, where our MFA show will be. We'll be in two installments, first in April/May then May/June. I'm in May/June. I'm going to put the greenhouse outside in the third floor sculpture garden. It's a really beautiful little space, with an um, eclectic variety of sculpture on hand. I took a picture of the spot where i want to put the greenhouse. Imagine that bench being gone, replaced by the greenhouse. Putting it there means you can see it from inside too, as those glass windows overlook the stairwell.

It's a relief to have a site for the installation. I'm thinking about vellum prints of some of my drawings to put up over the inside windows.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

plumpy piñon recipe

this is the recipe I developed for "Plumpy Piñon," a piñon nut version of the humanitarian aid food, Plumpy'Nut, which uses peanuts.

Plumpy Piñon

2 T Piñon nuts,
ground into paste
1 t Vitamin powder
1 t Powered sugar
1 t Granulated sugar

Mix together to form a paste. For additional comfort, fill a small plastic bag, snip a corner, and suck the paste from the bag.

The basic recipe is, combine different sugars and vitamin powder (I used a soy protein powder, sort of a cheat...) and then add roughly the same amount of nut paste. Combining with your hands seems to work best.

Most people wanted their plumpy in a bag.

N. took the leftovers home to her kids so they could connect to malnourished African kids.

This is what it looks like.

road trip exhibition @ SJ Museum of Art

Yesterday I went to the "Road Trip" exhibition at the San Jose Museum of Contemporary Art. It closes in just a few days, so I wanted to be sure to go. B. and I both have soft spots for road trips, and I just did a huge one for the MFA project, gathering seeds and plants for my greenhouse. Since then I've narrowed things down to the piñon--I wish I had already made that decision before going on the road, I could have had a very different, more focused experience.

There were some really great pieces, but overall, it was kind of a let down. I could think of 5-10 amazing performances/pictures/installations that would have been perfect for the show, but as it was, there just wasn't a lot to look at, and only the photographs seemed to work together. There was also a thread of maps and geography running through the show, but again, not developed conceptually by the curators (who seem to be anonymous--I can't find their names on any of the literature we picked up or on the website).

Highlights were photographs by Amy Stein, Lee Friedlander, and Eleanor Antin. B. and I both agreed that the best three things in the show were Tracey Snelling's diorama of a drive-in theatre with a screen in place of the movie screen, Nina Katchadourian's beautiful "map dissection" of the United States, and also Lordy Rodriguez's hilarious reconfiguration of a US map. I also liked Margarita Cabrera's Vocho, and Sophie Calle had a video running that looked like it would have been great if I had time to sit there and watch it. This style of exhibition seems an unfortunate way to screen a 75 minute film.

All told, if you missed this show, don't agonize about it, but if you go, find those three things, check out the photos, and you'll probably have a good time.

Upstairs, there is a really nice cardboard sculpture show worth checking out, and a delightfully creepy Tony Oursler piece in the gallery next door.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

friday forum 2

more about friday forum...

My most recent food experiences have been about survival, mixing, and liquification. My grandfather has been unable to swallow for the last six months. This started with misdirected swallowing, where he would swallow and everything would dump into his lungs. Then he stopped being able to swallow at all. He's been using a stomach tube and will be for the foreseeable future.

I looked around online and found Lucy's Real Food, a website with recipes designed for tube feeding. Right now, grandpa's entire diet is made up of canned stuff that doesn't even need to be refrigerated. I figured some fresh vegetables couldn't hurt. I made him the mixed vegetables recipe and the tamales recipe. The process was really easy. When I went home for Christmas, I froze the food and took it with me--probably a gallon or two of frozen bags. So far, my grandma has been resisting the idea of him eating it, and I predict it'll still be there in their fridge when I go back to Denver, but I feel good about trying.

Related to grandpa's survival on liquid canned food, I've become interested in a product called Plumpy Nut. It's a humanitarian aid food designed for malnourished kids, mostly Africans. It's a good alternative to typical treatments for malnutrition because kids can eat it themselves and don't have to be hospitalized, on IVs, etc. Plumpy Nut is copyrighted, even though it is also locally produced and designed for humanitarian purposes. This seems to be an interesting tension, but as far as I can tell, Nutriset's copyright hasn't prevented other organizations from developing peanut-based nutrition for similar populations.

I hope the current peanut butter salmonella disaster hasn't affected Plumpy Nut.

At the end of the Friday Forum talk, which was a monologue with slides and stories, I made plumpy nut out of piñon. This activity makes literal the "survival nut" side of piñon. I developed a handout that included a recipe for piñon plumpy nut, as well as some great facts about piñons from Birdy Jaworski's article.

The discussion both during the formal discussion period and around the plumpy nut preparation was very useful to me. We came up with my new title, Starvation Seeds, and I discussed ways of showing how I might document/stream video of other piñon activities in the museum space.

Tomorrow, I'm going to meet with S., our curator, and go to the museum to try and get a grip on the space I will have and what my options for installing will be.

friday forum

Welcome to the Starvation Seeds blog. I'm an MFA candidate at the University of California Santa Cruz, in the Digital Art & New Media program. I realized today that I needed a place to keep track of the project, documentation, news, etc., so I've started this blog. Thanks for reading!

Last week I participated in something we have at UCSC called Friday Forum. It's a student-run roundtable to present works in progress. I talked about my thesis project and made two piñon nut dishes. First, I brought biscochitos that incorporated ground piñon nuts. I used this recipe, except I made a few changes:


6 c. sifted all-purpose flour
3 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
2 c. butter
1 1/2 c. sugar
2 tsp. anise seed
2 eggs
1/2 c. brandy
1/4 c. sugar
1 tbsp. cinnamon

In a medium bowl sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt. In a large bowl cream together the butter, 1 1/2 cups of sugar and anise seed. Beat the eggs until light and fluffy, and add to the creamed mixture. Add the flour mixture and the brandy, using only enough brandy to make a stiff dough. Mix until well blended.

Knead slightly and roll to 1/4-inch thickness. Combine the cinnamon and remaining sugar, and dust the pastry with the mixture. Cut into shapes and place on a greased cookie sheet. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 10 minutes, or until lightly browned. Makes 5 dozen.

The changes I made were:

halve the recipe (there were still plenty of cookies)
include a handful of ground piñon nuts
use whiskey instead of brandy

Also, I find it very helpful when making biscochitos to cut them into diamonds using a pizza cutter. It saves tons of time, and if you press lightly, you won't damage the cloth you used under the dough.

So we started with these cookies, the opposite of starvation food, usually eaten at christmas and weddings. These are the state cookie of New Mexico. In southern New Mexico, people say biscochos, but my family is concentrated in the northern parts, Santa Fe and up.

I talked about the piñon tree, its meaning for generations of New Mexicans, and for extreme travelers like the conquistadors and members of the Donner party. There is a great article about piñons by Birdy Jawoski here. I also talked about how we decide what is food and what is not food. For example, the Donner party wandered through thick piñon forests and were even offered piñon nuts as food, but still refused to see the nuts as sustenance. On the other hand, taboos sometimes teach us that stuff we really shouldn't think of as food is. Cannibalism arises because in some way, because we have a taboo against it, we do think of people as food. So the Donner party ignored an obvious vegetarian option.

I also talked about my family's imaginary origin point in the conquistador Pánfilo de Narvaes, leader of the ill-fated expedition that launched Cabeza de Vaca on his 8 year long journey. I should clarify, now that I'm posting this somewhat publicly, this is a small faction of my family. The relatives I still visit in NM have nothing to do with this--they are from my great-grandmother's side of the family, and this is my great-grandfather's side. My great-grandfather always told us his entire family was killed in a train accident--seven brothers and sisters, all dead. But when he himself died, a relative from NM came up to Denver and told us that his brother had survived, was living in NM, and had kept the name Narvaes, after the conquistador, who was our ancestor.

Geographically, it works--Narvaes shipwrecked off the Texas coast, and my great grandfather's family came to NM from Northern Mexico and Texas, where Cabeza de Vaca wandered. But culturally, I find this very problematic and difficult to swallow. The conquistadors aren't my favorite characters in history. I have trouble recuperating them to be beloved ancestor/fathers.

I also talked about some things going on in my present family, and some recent encounters with food, mixers, and liquification. I have to run now, but I'll write again soon with more about my FF talk and some possible avenues to pursue from here.

About Me

My photo
Lindsay Kelley is an artist and writer researching bioart, fringe foods, and uncommon modes of food preparation and ingestion. She is currently completing her book manuscript, The Bioart Kitchen. Lindsay holds a MFA in Digital Art & New Media and a Ph.D in the History of Consciousness, both from the University of California Santa Cruz. She works at the Public Library of Science on the PLOS ONE editorial team.