Materiality of Place

Soil-Based Artwork at Hubbard Brook

Rebecca Schultz at Council Rock

Left: soil pit in the Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest, July 2022; Right: Spodosol, Typical, hard ground and aquatint etching using soil-based ink, 2022. 

In July 2022, I did my second residency at the Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest in New Hampshire, returning to work with hydropedologist Scott Bailey. My week at Hubbard Brook happened to be Scott’s last as a full time Lead Scientist with the USDA Forest Service; our task was to conduct validation sampling for a predictive soil map of the Hubbard Brook. We spent four days in different parts of the Forest locating sampling points on the map, digging soil pits, doing basic analysis (texture, color, horizon, taxonomy), and noting surrounding tree cover. I collected soil samples at each pit. I also spent one “studio day” at the soils lab–I pulverized rock samples in the Shatterbox, made watercolor with some samples, and did soil chromatography of seven soil horizons.  

 The week at Hubbard Brook allowed me to build upon my practice of making soil pigments. I was particularly fascinated by the differences in color and texture in soil horizons, as well as the form of the pit, with a halo of organic matter surrounding its opening. I decided to make a multi-color etching based on this imagery, using ink made from soil pigments. Etching is my favorite printmaking process–it involves elemental materials and equipment that has been in use for hundreds of years. The process of etching a plate also evokes the process of chemical weathering of bedrock to make soil. 

The resulting print, Spodosol, Typical, is made with inks derived from three soil horizons–A, B, and E. The print was included in the exhibition Field Station: Art-Science in the White Mountains at the Museum of the White Mountains. 


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