In 2010 I started working with large commercial salt licks found at my local feed store as a continuation of my previous sugar work. The salt licks were dense, heavy blocks in uniform units of luminous yellow (sulphur), white, blue (cobalt) and shades of brown (mineral traces or iodine), depending on their mineral composition, with each block measuring 10.5” x 10.5” x 10”.5/27cm x 27cm x 27cm.
At first, I immersed them in large buckets of water and poured solutions into their cavities, allowing for transformations either from the outside in or the inside out. I soon discovered the salt blocks were very resilient and decided to see how the salt would erode under exterior environmental stressors, such as variations in weather including the effects of sun exposure, temperature, wind and rain.
In the early summer of 2011, I placed thirty-five salt licks in a field, accompanied by a salt collecting system I designed and installed, as part of the exhibition Exposed at the Helen Art Center in Stowe, Vermont. My control of the material’s transformation was limited to its placement in different locations throughout the site. The blocks were not installed according to a specific pattern or order, but positioned in response to different landscape features. The making of these forms became an active process where a final outcome could not be predetermined. The greatest surprise was how the installation was radically changed by the arrival of Hurricane Irene in late August, 2011.
Photographs taken by Paul Rogers, Deborah Margo and Tom Evans.
Exposed: Outdoor Sculpture, Helen Day Art Centre, Kasini House Books (Burlington, Vermont), 2011
Deborah Margo's Salt Works, essay by Gabrielle Doiron, Issue 2: Art, Science, Wonder, Art & Science Journal – where fields collide, Ottawa, 2013