Growing up in the rural town of Manhattan, Illinois, just north of Kankakee and about 40 miles southwest of Chicago, I was surrounded by corn. The immensely tall grass that enveloped the landscape was always something to look forward to in the summer months. With such a proximity to Chicago, I grew up observing this juxtaposition between the urban and rural landscape. Both places had their towers whether they were rooted in concrete or rooted in the dirt they both stood as monuments to human engineering. Illinois has such a history with corn from the early Cahokian civilization to the corn-fed stockyards of Chicago that supplied the world with its meat.

Agriculture has long stood as one of the most influential discoveries in human history. By supplying us with a surplus of grain and the security of a next meal, it led to the development of settled communities and new technologies that ultimately shaped the entire way in which we live. Simultaneously, farmers who cultivated plants season after season saved the most favorable seed to be replanted for the following year. It was this process that brought the tall grass, Teosinte, to unprecedented heights and created the crop we now know as corn.

This sculpture entitled “Saving Our Seed” references humanity’s rich history with agriculture and the codependency that exists between humans and their invented ecosystem. The form which is made of steel and clear acrylic sheeting is inspired by biblical depictions of Noah’s Arc, while the materials allude to a modern greenhouse. The 17-foot long boat holds roughly 4,000 Lbs of Corn seed. The story of Noah’s Ark was always peculiar to me as it seemed to recognize the human race as somewhat alien to this planet. It put a single person in charge of something as grand as saving two of every animal species. While I recognize mankind’s technical abilities and inventive nature I still ask the question, what would we really save? The corn inside creates a landscape within the landscape itself. It is a man-made landscape, one that sustains us and depends on us.

boat load of corn noah's ark

Zach Balousek
SIUE Student

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