The Triptych Altarpiece is an installation containing soil, seeds, and water--the bounty given to my land. This installation brings into view those parts of our landscape that we tend to ignore on a day-to-day basis. By placing them along with fragments of images, text, and historical documents, into an altarpiece made from antique printer drawers, I address the idea that in this era of easy access to information, we have collectively lost knowledge about the natural world and have also lost a sense of the sacredness of our land and what it produces--that we feel neither properly thankful for nor nurturing of the interconnected systems that sustain us.
In the left-hand printer drawer, there is a visual representation of the soil history of the land where I live. It is made from the soil in my yard, collected at various depths. As we enter ever greater depths to retrieve the core samples, we glimpse a tangible historical record. In addition to the display of these samples, there are soil "wafers", arranged as strata of unleavened bread.
The central panel is a catalogue of the seeds that grow in my yard. These seeds have been collected throughout the growing season. I did not discriminate between "good" seeds and "bad". This seed collection reflects the biodiversity of plant life in my yard. It also represents the bio-invasion of plants that has plagued the earth's ecosystems. The seeds represent bounty and responsibility. They represent the health and the illness of our environment. I have placed the seeds in packets and have installed them over photos, colour fields, and text. The text comes from articles that deal with the notion of seed ownership. These seeds "spill" out of the drawer and mix together on the cabinet below, and possibly on the floor.
On the right-hand side of the altarpiece, there is a printer drawer filled with water. This water consists of the precipitation that I collected daily from my property for one year. Each day at the same time for one year, I measured and collected whatever rain or snow had fallen onto my land. This is not water from a hose. This is not water as a commodity. This is water as gift. I display the water in 365 communion glasses. Each glass that contains water is shrink wrapped. One printer drawer cannot hold 365 vessels of water. These vessels are arranged on the cabinet below, cascading from the printer drawer onto the surface of the cabinet, within its drawers, and onto the floor.
Photographs taken at Calvin College are by Gail Heffner.