Field to Palette: Dialogues on Soil and Art in the Anthropocene, 1st Edition (e-Book) book cover

Field to Palette

Dialogues on Soil and Art in the Anthropocene, 1st Edition

Edited by Alexandra Toland, Jay Stratton Noller, Gerd Wessolek

CRC Press

683 pages | 340 Color Illus.

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Paperback: 9781138297456
pub: 2018-11-12
Hardback: 9781138585096
pub: 2018-11-12
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pub: 2018-10-26
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Field to Palette: Dialogues on Soil and Art in the Anthropocene is an investigation of the cultural meanings, representations, and values of soil in a time of planetary change. The book offers critical reflections on some of the most challenging environmental problems of our time, including land take, groundwater pollution, desertification, and biodiversity loss. At the same time, the book celebrates diverse forms of resilience in the face of such challenges, beginning with its title as a way of honoring locally controlled food production methods championed by "field to plate" movements worldwide. By focusing on concepts of soil functionality, the book weaves together different disciplinary perspectives in a collection of dialogue texts between artists and scientists, interviews by the editors and invited curators, essays and poems by earth scientists and humanities scholars, soil recipes, maps, and DIY experiments. With contributions from over 100 internationally renowned researchers and practitioners, Field to Palette presents a set of visual methodologies and worldviews that expand our understanding of soil and encourage readers to develop their own interpretations of the ground beneath our feet.


The ambition of the editors and contributors of the book Field to Palette: Dialogues on Soil and Art in the Anthropocene is to help society reconnect with soil. The chapters are either essays that explore some of the cultural articulations of soil or incredibly informative conversations between artists, activists and scientists who share their thoughts about the material properties, cultural histories, environmental functions and existential threats of soil.

Field to Palette is an amazing publication. Its almost 700 pages are packed with photos, surprising information and moving encounters. I wish i had the time to talk about everything i’ve learnt in the book. The unexpectedly sophisticated sensory abilities of nematodes or the method to turn plastic-free baby diapers into planters and nutrients for trees, for example. Since one of the greatest achievements of the book is the way it demonstrates the important role that artists can play in raising discussions with the public and in participating to the solution to the many challenges soil faces today, i’ll dedicate the rest of my review of the book to just a few of the artworks and stories i discovered in Field to Palette.

Table of Contents


1. Urban Farming: The New Green Revolution?

Agnes Denes and Rattan Lal in conversation with Alexandra Toland

2. Taste of Place: Terroir as Experience

Laura Parker in conversation with Tom Willey, Lou Preston and Scott Burns

3. A Root Stew from the Kitchen of Sarah Wiener

Sarah Wiener

4. Artisanal Soil

Sue Spaid

5. Black Gold

Tattfoo Tan

6. Temple of Holy Shit: On Human-Soil Nutrient Cycles and the Future of Sustainable Sanitation

Valentina Karga, Ayumi Matsuzaka and Stephen Nortcliff in conversation with Alexandra Toland

7. S.Oil

Maria Michails and Ronald Amundson in conversation with Alexandra Toland

8. Murray River Punch: A Conversation on Changes Along the River

Richard MacEwan and Bonita Ely

9. Yield

Matthew Moore and Brent Clothier in conversation with Alexandra Toland

10. On Corn Mothers and Meal Culture: Ecofeminist Alternatives to Food Politics and Soil Security

Roxanne Swentzell and Parto Teherani-Krönner in conversation with Alexandra Toland


11. Soil Genesis: A Dialogue for Creation

Veronique Maria and Olafur Arnalds

12. A Kind of Soil Genesis on Canvas

Ulrike Arnold in dialogue with Thomas Scholten, Facilitation and text: Bettina Dornberg

13. Painting with Earth: Earth Pigments in North Devon a Guide for Teachers and Artists

Peter Ward

14. Pedometrics, Pictures, and Poetry

Elvira Wersche and Alex McBratney

15. From Earth

Herman de Vries in conversation with Nico van Breemen

16. Correlation Drawing/Drawing Correlations

Margaret Boozer and Richard K. Shaw in conversation with Claire Huschle

17. Mineral Traces: The Aesthetic and Environmental Transcendence of Soil Mineral Properties

Sarah Hirneisen, Jason Stuckey and Don Sparks

18. A Snapshot in Time: The Dynamic and Ephemeral Structure of Peatland Soils

Laura Harrington and Jeff Warburton

19. Carbon

Taru Sandén in dialogue with Alexandra Toland, postscript and images by Terike Haapoja

20. Deep-Time Moles: An Interdisciplinary Approach to Geological Archiving

Dave Griffiths, Sam Illingworth, Matt Girling


21. Honoring Soil Hydrology in Pictures

Gerd Wessolek

22. Waterviz at Hubbard Brook: The Confluence of Science, Art and Music at Long Term Ecological Research Sites

Lindsey Rustad, Xavier Cortada, Marty Quinn, Torrin Hallett

23. Aesthetic Engineering: Giving Visual Credence to Restoration Processes

Bruce James, Daniel McCormick and Mary O’Brien

24. Rocks, Radishes, and Restoration: On the Relationships Between Clean Water and Healthy Soil

Aviva Rahmani and Ray Weil

25. Dirt Dialogue

A conversation with Jackie Brookner, compiled and completed by Maxine Levin

26. WATERWASH for a Swimmable Bronx River

Lillian Ball and Edward R. Landa

27. Backyard Portals: A Solutions-Oriented Approach to Valuing Soil

Stacy Levy in dialogue with Patrick Drohan

28. Don’t Worry, It’s Only Mud

Patricia Watts and Amy Lipton in conversation with Mel Chin

29. The Art of Decay: Soil Decomposition Explored Through the Visual Arts

Farrah Fatemi and Laura Fatemi


30. Exploring the Invisible: The Exemplary Life of Soil

Simon F. Park

31. SOILED. Reflecting A Natural Body Through Socio-Aesthetical and Bio-Political Viewpoints

An Interview with Suzanne Anker by Regine Rapp & Christian de Lutz

32. Nematode State of Mind

Daro Montag in dialogue with Diana Wall

33. On Colour Hunting

Natsai Audrey Chieza and John Ward

34. A Public Chemistry of the Detritusphere

Georg Dietzler and Ellen Kandeler

35. Soil Macrocosms: Microbes, People, and Our Cumulative Effects

Alejandro Meitin, Claire Pentecost, and Brian Holmes in conversation with Ela Spalding

36. A Soil Procession and Seed Journey to Preserve Genetic Diversity

Régine Debatty in conversation with Amy Franceschini

37. Future Worlds

Wanuri Kahiu and Peter Haff in conversation with Carlina Rossée


38. Reframing Heritage: Cultural Soilscapes and Soil Memory

E. Christian Wells and Marlena Antonucci

39. The Weapon is Sharing

Cannupa Hanska Luger in conversation with Alexandra Toland

40. Stories from the Hills: Tales of the Lowland

Ruttikorn Vuttikorn, Myriel Milicevic and Prasert Trakansuphakon

41. Sketches in the Sands of Time

Mandy Martin and Libby Robin with responses from Guy Fitzhardinge and Mike Smith

42. A Visual Ethnography of Soils in Space and Time

Ekkeland Götze and Winfried Blum in conversation with Alexandra Toland

43. Lessons from Emma Lake: A Metamorphosis of Science and Art in Landscape and Local Colour

Ken Van Rees and Symeon van Donkelaar

44. Soil Connoisseurship

Linda Weintraub

45. Underground Roots

Nance Klehm in conversation with Akilah Martin

46. Soil Lovers Unite! for a Down & Dirty Q & A

Beth Stephens & Annie Sprinkle in conversation with farmer philosopher Fred Kirschenmann


47. Seeing the Soil Platform

Amy Green

48. Perpetual Architecture: Uranium Disposal Cells of the Southwest

Center for Land Use Interpretation

49. Wastelands

Lara Almarcegui in conversation with Gerd Wessolek

50. The Earth Print Archive: A Forensic Documentation of Land Take

Betty Beier in conversation with Gerd Wessolek, with input from Frank Glante and Jörg Katerndahl

51. Soil in the City: The Socio-Environmental Substrate

Debra Solomon and Caroline Nevejan

52. The Soil Assembly and Dissemination Authority (SADA): A Thought Experiment in Building Tomorrow's Soils Today

Ellie Irons, in collaboration with Jean Louis Morel

53. Soil Chemistry and Urban Design in the Hybrid Landscapes of South China

Seth Denizen and Qiu Rongliang

54. The City as Forest: Cartographic Reflections on Land Use in Brazil

Paulo Tavares and Antonio Guerra in conversation with Alexandra Toland

55. Island Urbanism: Rethinking the Land-Use Technology of the Watershed

Sean Connelly in dialogue with Alexandra Toland

About the Editors

Dr. Alexandra R. Toland is a visual artist and environmental planner

with research interests in ecosystem services, urban ecology, soil and

culture, and the Anthropocene. She is junior professor for arts and

research at the Bauhaus University of Weimar and has previously

lectured at the Technische Universität Berlin, University of Arts Berlin

(UDK), Humboldt Universität zu Berlin, and Leuphana University. She

co-chaired the German Soil Science Society’s Commission on Soils in

Education and Society from 2011 to 2015 with Gerd Wessolek and

continues to write and make artwork about soil.

Dr. Jay Stratton Noller is professor of landscape pedology and

head of the Department of Crop and Soil Science at Oregon State

University. His research focuses on morphologistics and human

interactions with soils in modern and ancient agricultural and forest

landscapes of the Middle East, Europe, and the Americas. His

experience crosses disciplines of soil science, geomorphology, art,

and archaeology and his work as an artist at Soilscape Studio LLC is

internationally recognized.

Dr. Gerd Wessolek is a soil physicist and painter who has pioneered

efforts at giving soils and soil science a broader exposure to wider

audiences through presentations, exhibitions, and soil art projects.

Information on his research on urban soils in the vadose zone and an

online gallery can be found at Since

1999 he has been chair of the Soil Protection Department at the

Technische Universität Berlin.

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
NATURE / Environmental Conservation & Protection
SCIENCE / Life Sciences / Botany
TECHNOLOGY & ENGINEERING / Agriculture / General