“Sip. Do Not Gulp.” installation at the de Saisset Museum in Santa Clara University

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When I was commissioned by the de Saisset Museum to create a mural about the history of food and water in the Santa Clara Valley, I immediately thought about the great amount of water it takes to grow food and what that means in a region which experiences droughts and water scarcity. I wanted to tell people that although we enjoy great food in the region, growing food comes with a very large, mostly invisible, “water-tag”, and we may have a very hard time in the near future responding to the growing demand of a growing population. Due to the drought we are going through in California, lots of farmers are facing drastic decisions concerning their crops.

I thought about making a video that would be integrated in the mural.
I met with four amazing people: Andrea – culinary artist – at Montalvo Arts Center in Saratoga; with Jay Famiglietti – Professor of Earth System Science and Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of California, Irvine – in San Francisco on the occasion of the AGU conference, the largest worldwide conference in geophysical sciences; with Ann Marie Sayers – Ohlone Storyteller and Tribal Chair of Indian Canyon – in Indian Canyon, south of Hollister, where she lives surrounded by a wonderful nature; and with Ed Maurer – Associate Professor, Civil Engineering – in Santa Clara University, where he works and where the De Saisset Museum is located.

When I visited the gallery at the museum, despite the fact that there was not much time to put everything together, I imagined taking over the whole space with the mural. It represents 1000 sq.ft. On the left the Ohlone period is represented. Facing the entrance the mural is about the mission/ rancho era, and on the right wall it is the present, with Silicon Valley.

In the middle a “rug” made of acorn” represents one of the most important food for  the Ohlone People, the first to have lived in the region. I hand-picked those acorns across Santa Clara Valley, from Palo Alto to Pinnacles National Park, via Sunnyvale and Indian Canyon. I brought bags and bags of acorns to the museum where they were stored and then cooked to sterilize them.

I traced the whole mural in one day and then, with an amazing organization from the museum and a group of dedicated students who helped me paint, the mural was finished in a few days.

The mural welcomes the participation of the visitors, who are invited to express their ideas about the role played by water from growing food to eat it, in our region, in a time of intense water use, rapid urban growth and droughts. Markers are at their disposition to draw, share a thought, a quote, a statistic on a bright blue paper plate. They can then tape the paper plate anywhere on the mural.

“Sip. Do not Gulp.” is shown at the same time with  A Serving of Shapes: An Exploration in 3D Printing by artist Corinne Takara.
Workshops: January 11 and January 18, 1-4 p.m., free
Exhibition: January 31 – March 16, 2014

“Sip. Do not Gulp” opens January 17.
The opening reception is Thursday, February 13.

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