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Stick Your Head Inside a Terrarium at DePaul's New Soil Exhibit

By Paul Biasco | January 29, 2015 5:50am
 Rooted in Soil is set to open Thursday at the DePaul Art Museum.
Rooted in Soil
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LINCOLN PARK — The newest exhibit at DePaul Art Museum is all about the hidden world under our feet, homes and roads: soil.

The exhibit, "Rooted in Soil," seeks to connect the worlds of art and environmental science and will feature a number of special events during its run.

The exhibit includes a large hanging terrarium in the museum's front window that invites city dwellers to stick their head up into the ecosystem at soil-level.

"You get up into the piece and you smell the earth. You are right at the level of the plants," said Laura Fatemi, curator of the exhibit and interim direct of the museum. "I think it's going to be an engaging piece for viewers."

"Metropolis" by Vaughn Bell

"Rooted in Soil" is a collaboration between Laura Fatemi and her daughter, Farrah Fatemi, who is an environmental scientist who focuses on soil.

"Farrah's interest in the environment inspired me," Laura Fatemi said. "Soil is a fundamental component to our lives and health that we often ignore, and throughout history artists have contemplated our relationship to nature."

The Fatemis hope that guests can reconnect with soil, one of the most fundamental parts of Earth and our ecosystem through the art.

An installation from Chicago-based artist Claire Pentecost resembles an apothecary with tinctures of soil taken from around the city that visitors will be able to examine and smell.

Pentecost will be participating in a talk called Soil Matters April 8 at the museum along with Liam Heneghan, a professor of Environmental Science and Studies at DePaul. The discussion will focus on soil as the source of ecological diversity and its importance in maintaining an environment that can sustain humans.

"Our Bodies, Our Soils" by Claire Pentecost

"I think [soil] is an important topic because it's a resource that many of us, especially living in an urban environment, don't pay enough attention to," Laura Fatemi said. "Knowing that your health is so connected to the soil is important."

Other highlights of the exhibit, which opens Thursday, include an animation that examines how large-scale farming practices are altering the landscape, which was created using 3D gaming software by John Gerrard and Edward Burtynsky.

Another artist and activist will be presenting a performance piece that entails handing out biodegradable balloons filled with wildflower seed for guests to take home and scatter in their neighborhoods.

'Milkweed Dispersal Balloons' by Jenny Kendler

“Human activities such as large-scale farming and deforestation have compromised the health of soil on a global scale,” Laura Fatemi said. “DePaul is committed to addressing issues of social concern, and this is an environmental topic that affects all of us."

The museum, 935 W. Fullerton Ave., is hosting an opening reception Thursday from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. with a curators' talk at 6 p.m.

A full list of events associated with the exhibit is available at museums.depaul.edu.

"Light/Dark Worms" by Justin Rang

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