Gold Nuggets - An ARTsperiment

I've been working on a series where I feed 24k gold to snails. Snails were imported to California during the late Gold Rush for food; another way to separate miners from their earnings. It didn't work. They escaped from snail farms in San Jose and Los Angeles and our gardens have suffered ever since.

Initially, I thought I would need to bait the snails into ingesting the gold with something more aligned with their palates.  "Snails eat plants. They crave fiber and calcium, I'm going to need to combine the gold with something more yummy." This lead to gold leafing wet construction paper, which is basically crack for snails. I am not the first artist to discover this.

snail paper.jpg

So purple construction paper + gold foil resulted in this. I was happy - not ecstatic - but happy. It's a little too mottled and not enough of the paper was ingested to give the impression of a solid gold nugget.


But, you know, this whole projects was all an experiment so why not push it harder just to see where it could go? Would a snail eat straight gold foil without the fiber or calcium to wash it down with? Why yes it will... So long as it the foil is wet.

Snails have something like 12,000 teeth on their radula. They scraped off that gold like they' were peeling an apple with a sharp blade. Just flick flick flick and it was gone down their stomachs.


And there we had it. After waiting for all the paper and grass to pass from their digestive tract, the snails created one perfect, solid 24k gold nugget.


But what to do with a gold nugget produced by a snail? How does one display and contextualize it within the tableau of California history? I looked at museum historical displays and natural history displays and the more base methods employed at truck stops and tourist traps.

Tourist traps... You know the kind in the foothills where you can pay to pan for gold and take home your finding in tiny little lockets? Your momento of a re-enacted homage to California history? Exactly.  


Gold Nuggets - A Collaboration with Garden Snails

snails, 24k gold foil, water, locket

edition of 4



Urban Camo Seed Bomb Part 2.0

 Both of these Urban Camo Seed Bombs disappeared within one week. The Pyramid Brewing cap is from the Bay Trail near the High Street Bridge. The Holiday Shiner cap is from the freeway onramp at 40th Avenue and 12th Street.

I really wonder where these go. Are my neighbors collecting them? Are magpies and crows scooping them up? Are dogs wolfing them down? I guess I’ll never know. But in the future I should probably aim for more covert seed bomb placement.


An Irreverent Goodbye Of Sorts


In sure and certain hope of inclusion in the permanent collection and 15 million years remembrance through our Lord Andy Warhol, we commend to Almighty MOMA our art piece the Tsarevich Fabergé Egg Seed Bomb; and we commit this art piece to the list of lost artworks; paint to paint; egg shell to egg shell; poppy seed to poppy seed. Artforum bless him and keep him, Artforum make his pages to shine upon him and be gracious unto him and give him good reviews. Amen.

Sometimes you’re so angry you can’t take crisp pictures.

Sometimes you’re so angry you can’t take crisp pictures.

I’ve been working on a new series of egg-based seed bombs painted to look like Imperial Faberge Eggs. This mid-level art catastrophe was to be the Tsarevich Egg.

Rest in pieces little Faberge Seed Bomb. I’ll see you on the other side of the art portfolio.

Two days before shattering on my floor

Two days before shattering on my floor



Urban Camo Seed Bombs Part 1

A little backstory on this project…

Between working, sleeping, and socializing I split my time pretty evenly between Oakland and San Francisco. Given that most of that time is spent in SOMA (where I work) or Fruitvale  (where I live) I have a passing familiarity with urban blight and the underutilization of green space. The specific issues – and by “issues” I mean observable symptoms not their underlying causes – in each area differ immensely. In San Francisco, urban space is a cage – the grid-like layout of it’s streets and the box-like architecture of it’s buildings marching up and down hills like prison bars or long teeth. With buildings pressed up against the sidewalk and one another there’s a dearth of front yardage, a dearth of tree wells and a general dearth of visually accessible greenery. However, this series is not about that specific set of urban issues. Sorry San Francisco, this series is very much about Oakland’s relationship to space.

In Oakland, urban space is simultaneously expansive and isolated. Lacking the motivation to grow upwards, everything spreads and languishes in uninspired apathy. Houses are cushioned by yards, businesses are cushioned by parking lots, and the streets are cushioned by tree wells. Which is not to say that any of it counts as well utilized space. Sure, there’s a great feel of openness and breathability to Oakland; but the cost of maintaining that open, urban space expands exponentially with the size of the space in question. If relatively wealthy San Francisco cannot properly landscape a tree well how do you expect relatively impoverished Oakland to properly maintain an empty lot, a small park, or the yard of a foreclosed home? How does a neighborhood who’s tax base (or political clout) doesn’t support adequate litter removal contain residents/landlords financially capable of landscaping their yards and tree wells en masse? Realistically, these things aren’t happening because Oakland is huge and sprawling and economically disadvantaged. “City coffers fall apart; the tax base cannot hold; Mere neglect is loosed upon public space.” 

So how did I get from Oakland-has-lots-of-underutilized-open-space to the concept of the Urban Camo Seed Bomb? And what is an Urban Camo Seed Bomb anyway? Simple; when walking through my neighborhood I see more litter than plant-life and that wasted opportunity makes me sad. To combat this under-utilization of green space I’ve made a series of seed bombs painted to look like common trash – the idea being that my “trash” will blend in with the actual trash, dissolve in the rain, and eventually sprout flowers. So how are the Urban Camo Seed bombs constructed? The seeds I used are from the California Poppy and were chosen due to their relatively easy germination, their suitability for the region, their showy blossoms, and their status as the official California state flower. The seed bombs themselves are made from recycled paper, water, and flour that’s either pressed into moulds or flattened between bricks and painted using non-toxic water colors. Below are two of the dozen or so completed Urban Camo Seed Bombs. These are the Fancy Pants Art Portfolio shots.



And these are the Placed In The Urban Environment shots – specifically an abandoned tree well on San Leandro Street in Oakland. I walk by this spot every day and love the bottle cap mosaics. So much Heineken and Corona but not a single, solitary scrap of greenery! If successful, this project should help change that (although hopefully not so much that the mosaics no longer show).

In hindsight that shade of blue is off.

In hindsight that shade of blue is off.

One of these is not like the others.

One of these is not like the others.

And how has this little experiment gone? Within 48 hours both bottle caps were gone. Within an additional 24 hours the Corona cap came back but was severally mangled – it’s paint smudged and it’s body crushed. Within another 24 hours it had disappeared again only to reappear once more the following day. At this point I can only conclude that my neighbors are playing tricks on me.

LESSONS LEARNED 1) Bottle caps need to be pressed into the soil both as camo and as protection from the wind. The Corona cap was pressed into the soil whereas the Heineken cap was not – I’m wondering if this had something to do with their differing fates. 2) Pick more secluded spots. If people see an art they will take it. While a certain amount of Seed Bomb FAIL has been factored into this project it would be nice if not ALL of them disappeared. 3) My neighbors are either the best or worst people ever. Keep a close eye on them…

Sad and mangled - after it's first disappearance.

Sad and mangled - after it's first disappearance.