Visual Adventures

a large pile of pumpkinsWriters often say that everything we do is working because inspiration and integration of ideas come at many times when we’re not sitting down at a keyboard. While this is a joke, it does contain some truth.

Last week I went to the National Heirloom Expo, an event that included displays a vast number of different types of squashes and pumpkins, not to mention many other vegetables, fruits, and grains. It made the choices at my very good farmer’s market look paltry and the complete lack of variety in vegetables at the supermarket embarrassing.

This week I went to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, spacesuitwhere I saw, among other fascinating things, a display on space that included creepy sculptures of astronaut suits and paintings made to illustrate O’Neill colonies.

Both of those experiences left me with inspiration and thoughts about how to work in what I saw there into fiction.

So I was working!

The Heirloom Expo gave me an idea of what markets and fairs might be like in a future in which people were consciously working on such things as biochar, other soil improvements, and encouragement of heirloom species. I did skip the program part of the Expo, which I fear included some of the anti-vaccine idiots, and focused on displays of heirloom vegetables and booths selling seeds, clothes, books, and other products aimed at robust and healthy agricultural economies.

The fact that we have dumbed down much of our farming to grow foods that are easily packaged and shipped instead of foods that are the most nutritious and flavorful, drives me nuts. I have nothing against genetic modification as an idea – after all, an indirect form of it is how we got many of the different varieties – but the patented seeds and monocrops of one variety that come from industrial operations that get their seeds from big corporations are ruining both the health of our farming soils and our diets.

My visit to the Expo was something like visiting a museum, since I mostly looked at things and experienced them.

My visit to the SFMOMA was a traditional museum experience. The first exhibit we went to was on space. In addition to the creepy spacesuits, there was a display of some paintings done as part of a NASA summer study that included exploration of Gerard O’Neill’s ideas for space habitats (now often called O’Neill colonies).

These paintings by Rick Guidice fascinated me. The NASA website has many of them, including some of the ones in the SFMOMA exhibit. Since I’m planning to use some of these in my work in progress, I was intrigued and inspired by the artistic vision that followed O’Neill’s scientific one.

Cutaway of a space colony

artist Rick Guidice from NASA Ames Research Center

I saw some great paintings by the German artist Gerhard Richter that dealt unflinchingly with the Holocaust and fascism. And was blown away by photographs by John Beasley Greene, made in Egypt and other parts of North Africa in the 1850s. Despite the fact that photography was so new at that time, Greene’s mastery of framing and light and shadow were amazing.

And then there were the more recent photographs of Egypt by English artist Hannah Collins.

These trips have inspired me to get out to museums more often along with getting out in nature. Just as the natural world and plant life can inspire us, so can the visions of other human beings.

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