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An Artist’s Exploration of San Diego County Farms

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PHOTOGRAPHY by
Eva Struble
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January 17, 2018
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TM, Oil on Canvas, 57”x38”
When I came to San Diego six years ago to teach at SDSU, I started exploring the edges of San Diego, going to rural areas I might not otherwise visit.
These expeditions marked the beginning of my departure from urban and industrially- focused work dealing with subjects like superfund sites and oil spills.

Working with California Rural Legal Assistance, who provide pro bono legal help to agricultural workers, I went on visits to farms in North County, observing them in relation to labor, immigration, and power.

I brought these themes back to the studio and created Produce, a series of paintings meant to mix up traditional ideas and perspectives in landscape. I used pattern to reference locations from which workers were travelling to be here, integrating screen printing and collage.

Those works were shown at the Museum of Contemporary Art in 2014.

For my current exhibit, Cover Crop, on display now at the California Center for the Arts Escondido, I chose to explore farms in the San Diego and North County that, in contrast, felt filled with promise to me.  

I visited small organic farms, many of which have community education as one of their goals. These farms exemplify sustainability to me. They work to preserve soil quality through composting, use alternatives to chemical fertilizers and pesticides, reduce carbon emissions, and teach kids (and adults) to respect the land and their food system.

From the Produce collection: Shade Structure, acrylic, paper and screen print on panel, 40"x54," 2014

They are small businesses and non-profits where workers are connected to the folks in charge, they are places for community gatherings.

Visiting these farms, I harvested popcorn, introduced my baby son to goats, ate finger limes off the bush (citrus caviar!), and learned about ingenious ways Tijuana River Estuary’s native plants process salt. When I left Earthlab with fingers dyed purple from cochineal bugs (a traditional source of textile dye we plucked off of prickly pears) I realized my next batch of paint might come straight from the source.

Working over previous paintings and weaving together images, Cover Crop provides glimpses of farms like Wild Willow, Earthlab, Nopalito, Solidarity Farm, Terra Madre, Coastal Roots interspersed with bits and pieces of previous scenes of my everyday life through textile patterns, news stills, and other landscapes. It is a more optimistic body of work than I’ve made in a while.

Earthlab Canopy Oil on Canvas 38”x58”
Nopalito Hops, Oil on Canvas, 30”x45.5”

Eva Struble's Cover Crop will be on view at the California Center for the Arts, Escondido Museum through March 4th.

With a combination of materials, Struble’s artwork treats distressed urban and natural landscapes, whose seemingly serene atmosphere belies the socio-political and environmental issues at their heart. Created on top of unfinished canvases from various periods, she adds imagery referencing small farms in the San Diego area, blending in previous scenes of her everyday life, television stills, textile patterns, and landscapes.

California Center for the Arts

340 North Escondido Boulevard, Escondido
Hours: Thursday – Saturday, 10am – 5pm; Sunday, 1pm – 5pm

Earthlab, Oil on Canvas, 33.5”x47.5”
ABOUT THE CONTRIBUTORS
Eva Struble
Eva Struble is an Associate Professor at the School of Art and Design, San Diego State University.
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