Terra Silva: A Return to the Roots

Hello all,

Last month, after a four month wait since applying, I was awarded a generous grant to pursue a project very dear to my heart. The grant is the Ontario Arts Council Franco-Ontarian Arts Grant for Established Artists, and it is meant to help artists set aside time and resources to creating a body of work.



For my project, I propose to create an exhibition inspired by the world beneath the earth’s surface, where roots meet the soil. Most of us are completely unaware of the millions of organisms that work the soil. In fact, soil life accounts for a much larger living mass than that which exists above ground, just as roots can outweigh and outsize the visible part of the tree. I have always been fascinated by the science of soil, and it has been the subject of much of my latest work.

In my search for inspiration, I recently became aware of the work of Prof Suzanne Simard of UBC. Dr Simard is studying how microscopic fungi act as a communication interface between one set of roots and another, creating bridges between various tree species to share resources. The network works much like the neural networks of our own brain. Through her work, we are learning that trees in a forest do not compete, but in fact cooperate with each other and share resources. This gives a forest more resilience and stability against adversity like disease or climate change. In every forest ecosystem, there are certain Mother trees – older, larger specimens – that serve as anchors for a large grouping of younger trees around them. When Mother trees die, they slowly release their stored nutrients and resources to all the trees in the network. Click on the image below for a wonderful video of Prof Simard, talking about Mother Trees.

simard photoProfessor Suzanne Simard explaining her research: click on image to see short video

This research is a rich source of inspiration, both visually and conceptually. Also, it will be relevant to all who love trees and nature, and who care about the environment. I have been in touch with Dr Simard – she is eager to share more information and is excited about the exhibition. In fact, she invites me to come and see first-hand what she and her students are up to in the lab and in the field. Of course, I am saying YES!

So, here I am right at the beginning. Dr Simard sent me half a dozen papers and articles to read up on, and I’ve acquired a textbook for which she is a contributor. Happy to share this journey with you, along with all the digressions and distractions along the way.

OAC 2014

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

4 Responses to “Terra Silva: A Return to the Roots”

  1. Iris says:

    Lorraine, if you can find the time, might I suggest Robin Wall Kimmerer’s Braiding Sweetgrass? Prof. Kimmerer is a botanist and her book contains some interesting thoughts on this subject. She is also the author of Gathering Moss but I haven’t read that yet. I’m looking forward to hearing more about your research, it sounds absolutely fascinating!

    • Lorraine says:

      Hello Iris, Thank you for the book suggestion. I will definitely look into it. The Native approach is yet another way to see the world, adding to the validity of scientific discourse. Lorraine

  2. Brigitte Wolf says:

    What a wonderful project! Dr Simard’s research sounds fascinating and I am reminded of a book I read a while back out of my local library. Called Mycelium running : how mushrooms can help save the world by Paul Stamets (publ 2005) it is a very detailed look not only at propogating wild mushrooms, but more to the point here, a look at what goes on underground in forests. I was surprised and intrigued.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: