I was invited to come up with a temporary, participatory art piece for the Smithsonian Garden Fest in Washington, D.C. Drawing on my experience as a muralist who has often painted on horizontal surfaces, and also as an explorer that has experienced the beauty of Mexican tapetes (temporary works of art that are created on the ground out of brightly colored sawdust and other organic materials like flower petals, beans, seeds, and rice), I proposed the creation of a ground mural out of natural materials.
I've always enjoyed transforming the floor—crosswalks, sidewalks, streets, and bridges—because the process of creation and the finished piece are intrinsically participatory. I can invite people of all ages and abilities to join in the fun since the surface to be transformed does not necessitate the use of ladders or scaffolding. The public that walks across the finished work of art enters the world created by the designs and colors, becoming a part of the piece. For Garden Fest, it seemed appropriate that we would use organic materials from the garden itself to “paint” the mural. To complement the natural materials we would also use brightly colored sawdust and powdered chalk.
I drew a very basic design onto a large piece of canvas which I encouraged the passerby to fill in with the various materials the gardeners had set aside over the previous weeks—sort of like coloring a page from a monumental coloring book. The symmetrical nature of my drawing influenced the placement of the materials (sand, pinecones, or pink sawdust), so that without directing people as to where to place what, the final work exhibited an incredible sense of balance.