Sarah Fagan's December Update: The Taxonomical Impulse

December 23, 2015 by Jess

written by Sarah Fagan,

2015-2016 Artist-in-Residence

With winter upon us, one of my favorite outdoor activities enters an off season: mushroom hunting. Mushrooms are quite extraordinary beings. They are more closely related to animals than plants. Some are choice eating, and fetch high market prices. Mushrooms are powerful, and can kill and heal alike. They are mysterious: Their classification is constantly changing as new species are found and known ones are regrouped. 

But my hobby isn't about finding the best species to cook with or sell, or even necessarily pluck from the ground. For me, foraging is a pure and simple treasure hunt. A personal need for magic is fulfilled every autumn when I spot bright red, yellow, or purple caps spread umbrella-like at my feet; a love of science and order is fulfilled when I leaf through my guidebooks and (attempt to) identify each species. I look for mushrooms the way other people birdwatch. 

Despite my adoration for the Fungi Kingdom, mushrooms rarely make their way into my artwork. I have come to learn this year, however, that the act of mushroom hunting itself scratches a similar itch as my painting style. 

When I arrange and paint tiny everyday objects in a line or grid, as I often do, I am organizing and identifying my world. Giving into my urge to sort and classify in art also begs viewers to look closer. Visual archives made with found or constructed objects prepare the brain for a pedagogical experience, one in which the viewer must ultimately teach him or herself. 

I hope to explore this concept of organizing and archiving more deeply, and in various mediums, as the year continues. I do this in the hopes of nurturing a symbiotic relationship between artist and viewer -- and at the very least, satisfying my taxonomical impulse while I await next autumn.


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