Kazakhstan Elite. 2010. Sculpture. High-fire glazed porcelain. Jessica Rath.

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Fausel House exhibit blends art, apples

By From page B1 | August 30, 2017

El Dorado County residents are no strangers to apple farming. With Apple Hill and apple picking season, cider tasting, doughnut sampling and pies for sale, apple culture is a familiar fall experience. Unknown to some, though, is the actual process of grafting by which an apple is produced.

Intersecting art, agriculture and science, renowned Los Angeles-based artist Jessica Rath explores that very process in take me to the apple breeder, the new exhibition opening Sept. 1 presented by El Dorado Arts Council at the Fausel House Gallery.

“take me to the apple breeder is based on work generated at Cornell University in Geneva, New York, by one of the top three apple breeders in the United States,” notes artist Rath. “The exhibition has gone to New York and Los Angeles, but as of yet not to an agricultural community, where the first layer of the work is so deeply understood- that of grafting and crafting fruit into food and drink. It is with great pleasure that I bring take me to the apple breeder to the fields and furrows of the Western Slope of the Sierra.”

Intrigued by Michael Pollan’s The Botany of Desire: A Plant’s-Eye View of the World, Rath visited the Plant Genetics Resource Unit in Geneva, a joint USDA/Cornell University project, in order to better understand the process of grafting, necessary to maintain a vast living collection of edible apples.

Ceramic sculptures of several varieties found at PGRU were made during her first visit. She mimicked the size and shape of each chosen varietal while mixing and matching high fire glazes to allude to the hues representative of each piece.

Returning in 2011, she photographed genetic diversity at the Cornell University-NYS Agricultural Experiment Station. Professional photographers Ken Marchionno and Mary Wingfield were recruited to assist her in capturing the “sister” trees planted by apple breeder Dr. Susan K. Brown. Dr. Brown utilized thousands of seeds from a crossbreeding of two apple varieties. These trees will mature, unpruned, for seven to eight years before Brown will choose one apple from the entire orchard to call a new variety.

Rath shot the trees in the winter against large white muslin backdrops to catch the beautiful, leafless silhouettes and the sensuous detail of their skin. The sculptures and large-scale photographs make up the exhibition visiting the Fausel House Gallery this fall; the exhibition has garnered reviews in Art in America, Artforum, Xtra Contemporary Art Quarterly and the Los Angeles Times.

Arts Council Executive Director Terry LeMoncheck affirmed the mission of these gallery exhibitions, which are made possible by support from the National Endowment for the Arts, El Dorado County and El Dorado Community Foundation.

“El Dorado Arts Council is committed to integrating the work we do with agriculture in El Dorado County,” she said. “We have partnerships with wineries, orchards, Ag in the Classroom and Farm Trails, and the exhibition perfectly illustrates this commitment. We’re very honored to be bringing an artist of Jessica Rath’s distinction to our community and we can’t wait until people see how we are transforming the inside of the Fausel House for this show.”

The public reception will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 1, at the gallery, 772 Pacific St. in Placerville; Rath will return to Placerville for an artist talk at 6 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 12, also at the gallery.

Rath’s practice considers how we shape the aesthetics of agricultural production and of our immediate landscape. She attained her Master of Fine Arts from California Institute for the Arts in 1996 and also studied at the School of the Art Institute, Chicago, and received a BA in Sociology from University of Missouri, Columbia. She is the recipient of a 2014 California Community Foundation Mid-Career Fellowship, 2013 City of Los Angeles Fellowship and a Center for Cultural Innovation Artistic Innovation grant, among others. She shows with Jack Hanley Gallery, New York, and her working process is archived at the Center for Art and Environment Archive Collections at the Nevada Museum of Art.

Special to Village Life

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