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Art HERstory: Agnes Denes

New York City is a concrete jungle. A forest of reflective glass towering over asphalt trails. The only plant life I remember (outside of parks) were a few trees that lined side streets and the cluster of bushes on the terrace of the Trump Towers. Conceptual artist Agnes Denes also saw the need for life in the Big Apple and instead of writing a petition she put it there herself. Her bold feat in the name of art and the  environment went down in history books as one of the best art projects ever.

Budapest born and NYC bred, Agnes was a true nature advocate. She mixed her interests in social sciences with the natural and began to make living, interactive art. She is actually credited with being one of the pioneers of environmental art. Wheatfield–A Confrontation was the work that earned the title. In 1982 Agnes actually planted 1,100 pounds of wheat in Battery Park Landfill, a two-acre lot of uninhabited space. The field of golden stalks was her visual protest against ‘human values and misplaced priorities.’ Grain harvested from the NYC field then took a 28-city worldwide tour with “The International Art Show for the End of World Hunger.’

The planting spree continued in Finland with Tree Mountain–A Living Time Capsule. The 1996 reclamation project called for the reconstruction of a mountain on the grounds of a deserted rock quarry. The man-made structure was also joined by 11,000 Finnish Pine trees mapped out in a detailed pattern. The entire setting was put together by volunteers from all over the world. The commitment those people made would last a lifetime. Upon completing the task at hand, each volunteer was granted an inheritable certificate which provided guardianship of the tree they planted. The effort was recognized by the Government of Finland at the World Summit in Rio de Janeiro as a contribution to global ecology.

The dream of restoring nature back to its original state is still a work in progress for Agnes and her followers. She’s replanting an endangered tree species in Australia and planting crops in Caracas, Venezuela.  The dream continues.

Image Layout: Phaymiss

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