Can you imagine a beautiful sculpture that produces delicious mushrooms? If you’ve experienced the GREEN ACRES exhibition, you’ll recognize Mei Ling Hom’s Mushroom Cap – A Mycorestoration Module as a unique symbol of sustainable agriculture as art.
What sets it apart from other installations in GREEN ACRES is its quiet promise of life. The piece is essentially a mound of woven wheat straw inoculated with mushroom spores and placed atop a simple wooden table. Unless watered regularly, it will remain dormant, an elegantly curved dome of textured fibers.
In her travels to Japan, Hom learned of farming practices that would later become a cornerstone of her work. She was particularly inspired by a practice that involved growing mushrooms in dark areas of thick forest. This is what eventually led her to incorporate mushrooms into a series of cloud installations spawning a site-specific piece, Mycelial Nimbus (Mushroom Cloud), featuring poplar logs growing Oyster mushrooms. Mycorestoration is an indoor, tabletop iteration of this concept.
Mushroom cultivation in Japan emerged when rural farmers developed a simple method to propagate fungi. This involved slicing the bark off of a log and placing it next to another log already covered in mushrooms infecting the new log with spores, which would produce more fungi.
Modern techniques involve planting mushroom spawn in plastic bags or bottles, which are then filled with a sawdust substrate. Hom’s Mycorestoration Module is a picture of contemporary methods while Mycelial Nimbus demonstrates the earlier form of cultivation. This past spring she led a workshop through which she was able to share this unique practice with community-based organizations.
Hom has always drawn inspiration from both nature and personal experience, thus her work consists of subtle layers of “historical reference and cultural experiences.” Through Mycorestoration she eloquently transmits her ideas via a conceptual form distilled from centuries of Asian agricultural innovation combined with an abstract, minimalist aesthetic.
If you’re now inspired to dig into the variety of modern gardening techniques, check out our free upcoming workshop, Urban Gardening in Containers: GREEN ACRES in a Small Space.
-Written by Benjamin Kernan, AAC’s Summer Marketing & Development Intern
The GREEN ACRES exhibition is made possible by an Emily Hall Tremaine Exhibition Award. The Exhibition Award program was founded in 1998 to honor Emily Hall Tremaine. It rewards innovation and experimentation among curators by supporting thematic exhibitions that challenge audiences and expand the boundaries of contemporary art.