When Nancy Nelson invited me to take a walk Monday morning, I couldn’t refuse. After all, a walk with a local arts supporter who is part of the creative force behind the ART OnSite project — to incorporate environment art along the Tribute Trail in Nevada City — has the potential to be an experience.
Nelson didn’t disappoint.
By 8 a.m., an entourage of people were gathered along a section of the trail accessible by Champion Mine Road to scout out the best locations to place piles of poop.
OK, it’s actually a large-scale art installation of ceramic pieces by artist Daniel Brickman, modeled after dog excrement he found on the trail during his first visit to the area. He is one of 10 artists selected for the inaugural installations of the project, set to open Sept. 7.
Monday’s excursion included staff from the Nevada Irrigation District’s operations and maintenance departments, who were there to OK the locations for the ceramic pieces and make sure they won’t interfere with the NID canal the trail winds along.
Altogether, Brickman has five pieces that will be placed within about a mile of each other, off the main path. The golden “nuggets” will range in size from about 18 inches up to 3 feet.
Why golden poop, you ask?
Brickman, who graduated from the University of California, Davis, last year, currently resides in Sacramento. When he learned of the ART OnSITE project, he said he wasn’t initially sure what he wanted to do. Although he typically works in large scale, this is his first go-round with ceramics. Before coming to Nevada City, Brickman researched the area’s Gold Rush history. After taking a walk on the trail for inspiration, Brickman said he started to run across a lot of poop and that eventually became a focus. He began to see the usage and interaction of people along the trail, especially those with dogs.
The fecal matter came to represent a link between the activities that happen along the trail and the Gold Rush history, he said.
While the recreation and lifestyle afforded by the trail and dog ownership is a positive, leaving behind poop on the popular path is not so good. So, too, with mining. The gold that came from these hills helped build the community, but the arsenic and lead left behind by the mining process left a scar on the area.
“It’s the good and the bad effects of the whole thing,” Brickman said. “The pieces (of poop) that I found being at the crux of that.”
Brickman calls this piece “Nevada City Alchemy.”
To tie his ceramic works into the area’s history, Brickman will use a gold luster on top of a black gloss layer.
“I want them to be as gold as can be,” he said.
Although it has generated the most controversy to date, Brickman’s installation is only a tenth of the project.
For Nelson, Monday’s outing represented visual progress to a project that has lived only on paper for two years. In July 2012, ART OnSITE received word that it was awarded a National Endowment for the Arts grant to fund a portion of the project. Nelson is now focused on the opening in September and the programs that are being developed around ART OnSITE, including docent-led tours and an educational component for children that will combine art and science curriculum in partnership with the Sierra Streams Institute.
Thanks to Nelson and the others volunteering their time to ART OnSITE, a walk along the Tribute Trail promises to be an ongoing experience for all.
Features Editor Brett Bentley can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.