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“Rooted in Soil”
DePaul Art Museum, Chicago, Illinois
Recommendation by Robin Dluzen

Claire Pentecost, "Our Bodies, Our Soils" (detail), 2014-2015, mixed media

Continuing through April 26, 2015

The DePaul Art Museum has quite a successful history of exhibiting artwork that addresses social issues, and “Rooted in Soil” may be counted among those. Far from being a dry, didactic presentation of the issue of conservation, this exhibition is interactive and tactile, as enchanting as it is educational. “Rooted in Soil” adeptly brings essences of earth and cultivation into the museum’s urban setting, reinforcing not only mankind’s effects upon the soil of our environment, but the effects the earth has upon us as well.

By far the most engaging works are those in which the earth’s inherent characteristics are at the forefront. Claire Pentecost’s “Our Bodies, Our Soils” gathers soil from all over the Chicago area in glass vitrines that the viewers can lift to inhale the scent of each sample; presented amongst charming, vintage apothecary accoutrements, Pentecost intermingles this sensory experience with an alchemical mystery. In her “Milkweed Dispersal Balloons,” Jenny Kendler urges visitors to take home and burst balloons filled with the fluffy seeds of the only plant upon which monarch caterpillars can feed; here, visitors engage with an eco-friendly pursuit that’s no chore, but an activity imbued with playfulness and whimsy.

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