In some ways, Haeg’s work defies the art market. “There are so many antiquated ideas out there,” Haeg said. “Art has to be permanent, and it has to hold monetary value. If it doesn’t hold value, it is considered worthless. Gardening, textiles, cooking are all associated with women, and they are all considered of lower value. You can’t collect things that are grown in a garden, because they don’t hold their value over time, but I can’t think of anything better to look at than things that are grown in a garden.”
Don’t get too excited by the food on display. It is there to be looked at but not eaten, at least by visitors. Part of Keith Clougherty’s job at the museum will be to can the produce, preserving it. However, Fridays through Sundays, Keith plans to offer tea to visitors, made from the mint that is locally grown.
Haeg’s previous work has included the 2005 “Edible Estates” (replacing lawns with kitchen gardens) and his 2008 “Animal Estates” (creating homes for animals displaced by humans), which were sited at different locations around the country. The deCordova’s “Domestic Integrities” is actually subtitled Part A04, reflecting the fact that different versions of it were created already at New York’s Museum of Modern Art, the Broad Art Museum at Michigan State University, and the Hammer Museum at the University of California, Los Angeles. The Walker Art Center in Minneapolis and the Berkeley Art Museum at the University of California, Berkeley will be subtitled A05 and A06.
Local artists who focus on issues of the ecology and sustainability are also part of “Work Out.” They include Jane D. Marsching, associate professor at Massachusetts College of Art and Design, who is creating a field station from reclaimed materials in the dimensions of Henry David Thoreau’s cabin at Walden Pond, and Andi Sutton, a Boston-based artist who is installing numerous pink flamingo sculptures filled with native wildflower seeds from North and South Carolina that will be dispersed as the sculptures disintegrate over time.
Environmental sustainability as a focus of an artist’s work tends to upend the customary business model for fine artists; many of them don’t create objects that can be sold in an art gallery to a collector. This class of artists is sustained on project grants and other forms of funding. Haeg claimed to have only sold one object in his career, a large eagle’s nest he created for the 2008 Whitney Biennial (“There was this one collector who kept asking and asking, and eventually I said, ‘OK, I’ll sell it to you.’ ”), but otherwise his projects are supported by commissions from institutions, such as Tate Modern in London and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.
Daniel Grant can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.