the seed of an idea

Seed pods. What are they about anyway? Why did I choose them?

One could argue that I didn’t, but this is not an existential blog post. It’s a practical one. The answer is at both times simple and complex.

The simple answer has to do with shape. Since I made the bulb (garlic, amaryllis, whatever you want to call it) I have been enamored of making shapes. Organic, curvy shapes to be precise. Seed pods tend to be both organic and curvy. It’s funny, but there is a moment in the making of these pieces where I just want to touch and hug them. It’s the moment when the space starts to be enclosed and the vessel begins to appear. The roundness is intoxicating. And observers to the process really start to understand what my vision has been. Up to that point it is a bunch of flat steel welded to steel rods.

I have also been super aware of the reactions that I get to these forms. The forms don’t always have a clear origin but can remind one of milkweed pods, garlic, bulbs etc. And for this reason, I think they inspire a non-verbal reaction. One that is based in something that we may not even be aware of. If you look at children’s books that identify things you will see that it is all about shape. Bananas have a curved banana look. Lemons and limes are elongated circles almost bordering on an oval. Oranges are ROUND. You get the picture (so to speak)

So what is the complex answer?

Well, it has to do with Monsanto. Yes, I’m talking about the company that many in the environmental world call evil. I will refrain from judgement. I won’t refrain from telling you how Monsanto is influencing me as an artist.

You see, I have been introduced to a new term, one which describes a potentially freaky scenario. The term is “terminator seeds”. According to Wikipedia :”Genetic use restriction technology (GURT), colloquially known as terminator technology or suicide seeds, is the name given to proposed methods for restricting the use of genetically modified plants by causing second generation seeds to be sterile.”

This is a pretty scary thought.

We, as a species, have the technology to create seed that will grow a plant that will not be able to reproduce on its own. The logical sequence then says that farmers must buy seeds every year in order to farm successfully. And who will they buy them from? Uh huh.

This is from the Monsanto website:

Myth: Monsanto sells “Terminator” seeds.

Fact: Monsanto has never commercialized a biotech trait that resulted in sterile – or “Terminator” – seeds. Sharing the concerns of small landholder farmers, Monsanto made a commitment in 1999 not to commercialize sterile seed technology in food crops. We stand firmly by this commitment, with no plans or research that would violate this commitment.


Monsanto’s customers range from large family farmers in countries like the United States and Canada to small landholder farmers in countries such as the Philippines, India and South Africa. Each farmer and each culture has different needs and challenges, and we are successful only if our customers are successful. That’s why Monsanto has never commercialized a biotech trait that resulted in sterile – or “terminator” – seeds. We share many of the concerns that farmers – especially small landholder farmers – have about this technology.

What is a “Terminator” seed?

Through modern biotechnology, it may be possible to develop crops that will not produce viable offspring seeds. Sterile seed technology – dubbed “terminator technology” in the popular press – is one type of gene-use restriction technology in which seed produced by a crop will not grow.

We remain committed not to commercialize sterile seed technology in food crops. After consulting with international experts and sharing many of the concerns of small landholder farmers, Monsanto made a commitment in 1999 not to commercialize sterile seed technology in food crops. We stand firmly by this commitment. We have no plans or research that would violate this commitment in any way.

This sounds really good, but the wording is such that you can easily overlook the phrase “not to commercialize sterile seed technology”. This means they HAVE the technology but they won’t SELL the technology or any seeds that result from the technology.

Okay, I’ve bored you with all of this rigamarole, what does it mean to a sculptor from MD? It means that I am pondering a world where humans, and by extension corporations, can control the very food we eat. What happens when a seed pod has no seeds inside of it to start the chain of life again next year? What happens if milkweed pods and fruit seed pods and all the different seed pods out there become empty?

That is what is driving me to create these larger than life seed pods sculptures. I don’t have answers, I don’t know if there are any answers. But there sure are a lot of questions.

Here are pictures of one of the finished seed pods and another that is still in progress. They are part of a three piece series.

 

 

 

2 thoughts on “the seed of an idea

  1. Oh dear, in my garden I terminate plants without any help from Monsanto. Terminator seeds do sound scary though. Your seed sculptures are fertile with ideas and possibilities. 😉

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