“Tyler Foote Finds: A Compendium of My Ignorance,” now on view at The DANK Inaugural in Nevada City, is a two-year collaboration with my dog, a mixed-breed terrier puppy rescued from the streets of Sacramento.
From the moment he came to live with me in Nevada County, Tyler Foote collected environmental objects. His curiosity was humbling because I couldn’t identify a single branch, feather, snake, acorn, butterfly or mushroom he brought to me.
Inspired by 19th century naturalists, I began to tag and date each object and note my uneducated response to them. His persistence made me wonder if he might be the reincarnation of John Muir.
As our project progressed into the driest seasons of California’s history, the objects took on new significance. The drought is imperiling our ecosystems.
Already 47 animals are on the state’s endangered species list, and another 36 are listed as “threatened.” Native fish, normally able to weather natural drought years, are unable to survive the man made systems that mimic perpetual drought.
And the foothill pine, native to Nevada County, is succumbing to dwarf pine mistletoe brought on by water deficits that make way for bark beetle infestation and death.
At the rate we’re going, on a global level, 400,000 species will be extinct by the year 2100.
These statistics are not hypothetical. This is happening. Now. And, if we don’t know the names of the living beings that surround us, that sustain us, how will we know they are disappearing? How will human beings survive our extreme detachment from our natural habitat?
Displaying Tyler Foote Finds in a gallery setting added another dimension to our endeavor; inviting questions about art, money, impermanence, beauty, commodification and knowledge.
Collaborating with Tyler Foote has forever changed my connection to nature, and made me rethink, when we’re tethered together, my animal companion and I, who’s leading whom?
I’d love for you to come see it in person.
Tyler Foote is a road in Nevada County, built in 1913 by Arthur DeWint Foote, artist and writer Mary Hallock Foote’s husband. It connects North Columbia to a town called Cherokee that used to be called Tyler.
Nevada County resident Moira McLaughlin is an artist who writes for her blog, Dog Art Today. This column originally appeared as an entry on her blog. Learn more at http://dreamdogsart.typepad.com/art/.