Roots of Renewal

Faulconer Gallery, Grinnell College, Grinnell, Iowa
6 September – 14 December 2003

Inventive men (detail of signboards) 2003

Inventive men (detail of signboards) 2003

My work for Roots of Renewal included 250 linear feet of signboards, hand-painted with quotations from a 1909 handbook titled, “Handy Farm Devices and How to Make Them,” by Rolfe Cobleigh. The messages alternate between practical advice and moral admonitions, such as, “never confuse board foot measure with square feet, cheerfulness is as contagious as the measles, the room in which to kill cattle and hogs should not be less than 15 feet square.” 

Together with Orlan Mitchell, a retired Congregationalist minister, I built a dozen or so of the handy devices illustrated in the book. These include, among other things, a feed hopper, a fleece box, and a gate that won’t sag. The objects are painted the same colors as the signboards—white and farm implement grey, green, yellow and brown. Once the exhibit was installed, these “simple but valuable things” were scattered among the other artworks in the show, but without lighting or wall labels.

Watering rack for hens 2003 painted wood and enamel pan, 18 x 12 x 18 inches

Watering rack for hens 2003
painted wood and enamel pan, 18 x 12 x 18 inches

Exhibition view with Watering rack for hens

Exhibition view with Watering rack for hens

Oregon sorting table (source book illustration)

Oregon sorting table (source book illustration)

Oregon sorting table 2003 mixed media, 38 x 58 x 42 inches

Oregon sorting table 2003
mixed media, 38 x 58 x 42 inches

Inventive men (detail of signboards) 2003 enamel paint on wood floor moldings, 250 linear feet overall

Inventive men (detail of signboards) 2003
enamel paint on wood floor moldings, 250 linear feet overall