Catherine Blackwell Pena

Acquisition Series I
mixed media, wood, dirt

From the onset of American colonization citizens have believed in the notion that the expansion and settlement of the American continent was destined and a given right of ownership. This idealized belief fueled the spread of the physical phenomenon that quantified land as object, creating a “man-land” relationship that constructed the landscape of North America, the American economy, and our sense of place. This learned, inherited, and assimilated knowledge acts as a mediating filter between nature and ourselves, affecting not only the way we think about nature but also the ways in which we physically interact with the natural world.

Humans’ acquaintance with their surroundings is directly connected to the amount of time that they observe, occupy, or relate to a space. Since modernization, most urban dwellers have become disconnected from the natural world and our understanding of it has been reduced to experiences of cultivated nature (i.e., city parks, gardens, yards, roadway margins, bird feeders, wall paper nature scenes, etc.).

My work focuses on Americans’ relationship to the natural world, revealing ways in which we manipulate, objectify, and quantify the landscape to raise environmental awareness. As I embrace the role of artist as activist, it is not my intention to create more divisions, but to offer alternative vantage points from which to consider environmental interconnections and at minimum to engage with a person for a period of time.

The Acquisition Series explores how land is valued across America and how that value is lost or holds little to no significance when removed from the context of its location. When completed, this series will be composed of 50 houses (each containing the dirt of a US State).

© Catherine Blackwell Pena