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Art at BTI- 2020

June 23, 2020 @ 7:00 pm - 8:30 pm

Artist Kirsten Kurtz working on a soil painting

Artwork by Kirsten Kurtz

*Due to COVID-19 and ongoing restrictions for social gatherings on the Cornell University campus, Art at BTI is going virtual! Join us as we celebrate National Soil Health Day by participating in an engaging Zoom webinar blending art and science.

Art at BTI presents “Celebrations of Soil” with soil artist Kirsten Kurtz and a presentation by BTI Faculty Member Dr. Maria Harrison, “Mycorrhizal roots: Getting Pi with a little help from your friends”.

Date and Time: Tuesday, June 23, 2020 from 7:00 to 8:30 pm (ET)

Event Registration is Now Closed

Soil painting featuring 3 women dancingKirsten is an internationally recognized soil painter, who creates her own paint from pure mineral soil. She has been recognized for her unique form of scientific communication, soil painting, by the United Nations-Food and Agriculture Organization (UN-FAO) and lead a team at Cornell to win an international soil painting contest sponsored by the UN-FAO. Kirsten’s work has been featured in multiple media outlets, the videos of her events have been viewed over 50,000 times and she has been an invited speaker for a wide range of classes at Cornell, at scientific conferences around the country, in addition to having many soil painting events, for a wide range of stakeholders, throughout New York State.

Artist Kirsten Kurtz working on a soil painting

Kirsten is a soil scientist at Cornell University as well as a classically trained artist with a Bachelors of Art focused on painting. Kirsten manages the Cornell Soil Health Lab and is currently an MS candidate at Cornell, focused on quantifying soil health in remnant (uncultivated) prairies, with an expected graduation date May 2020.

While working in the Cornell Soil Health Lab, Kirsten was inspired to create her own paint from the waste soil being generated by the lab. Kirsten developed a technique of mixing 2mm-sieved soil with clear gesso and water to create paints that capture the true colors of the spoil as they appear in the skin of the earth. Kirsten holds large community painting events where she invites the public to paint on a canvas with a pre-drawn simple design while she paints a canvas with a more complex design herself, or with invited collaborators. These events are intended to bring attention to soil as not only something of beauty but also as an essential natural resource deserving of our attention, protection and care. Our planet has lost 1/3 of arable soil and the remaining land suitable for crops is rapidly depleting. Through drawing attention to this essential natural resource it is possible to change public and policy maker opinions in order to preserve, through careful management, our remaining soil and help to ensure food security for future generations.

The majority of Kirsten’s soil paintings are created for and at soil painting events. Kirsten also accepts commission work and sells open edition prints upon request. Inquiries can be directed to ksk64@cornell.edu. More details, including examples of her soil paintings can be found at: https://soilpainting.com/.

Dr. Harrison will present “Mycorrhizal roots: Getting Pi with a little help from your friends” highlighting her research of the relationship between vascular flowering plants that form symbiotic associations with arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) fungi in the roots where carbon is supplied by the plant. This symbiosis includes the transfer of mineral nutrients, particularly phosphorus, from the soil to the plant. In many soils, phosphate exists at levels that are limiting for plant growth. Consequently, additional phosphate supplied via AM fungi can have a significant impact on plant development, and this symbiosis influences the structure of plant communities in ecosystems worldwide. Maria’s lab is interested to understand the mechanisms underlying development of the AM symbiosis and phosphate transfer between the symbionts. Learn more: https://btiscience.org/maria-harrison/

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A big thank you to Art at BTI sponsor Cayuga Landscape!


June 23, 2020
7:00 pm - 8:30 pm
Event Category:


Boyce Thompson Institute
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