Gold Nuggets - An ARTsperiment / by Kasey Smith

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.  

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Gold Nuggets - A Collaboration with Garden Snails

snails, 24k gold foil, water, locket

edition of 4

2018