The Art of Science: Culture and Monoculture

Dawn Holder, Monoculture, porcelain, 2013
Dawn Holder, Monoculture, porcelain, 2013

Dawn Holder’s Monoculture is a porcelain replica of that American ideal, the perfect green lawn. Holder explains that she focused on the lawn because of its “multivalent nature.”

“It is a “natural space” in that it is comprised of plants and landforms, yet the lawn is a wholly artificial construct, a highly controlled space requiring labor, chemicals, and specialized equipment to maintain. I am fascinated by suburban America’s desire to construct this hybrid artificial-natural landscape and what it signifies in terms of time and resources. I think the lawn is our culture’s fantasy version of the natural world.” (source)

Holder’s piece, made from individually formed, glazed and fired pieces of porcelain, is also, of course, a “highly controlled space” that requires a lot of labor to create and maintain.

“The toil involved in the manufacture of these repetitive pieces mirrors the tedium of shaping and cultivating the landscape…Breakage and repair have become part of the labor of maintaining much of the work.” (source)

Holder’s piece is on exhibit at the National Museum of Women in the Arts, in Washington, DC, as part of a show called Organic Matters—Women to Watch 2015. The work seems especially timely as drought and climate change call into question whether humans can – or should – continue to exert this kind of control over the natural environment.

Perhaps one day, maybe sooner than we imagine, a museum will be the only place to see a perfectly tended green lawn.

Organic Matters continues at the National Museum of Women in the Arts through September 13.

detail from Monoculture
detail from Monoculture