Where the Fruits of Labor Reside

This collective sculpture was the setting for a multi-day community action in which all were invited to gold-leaf locally grown produce while giving agency to individual self-representation. The produce bears elaborate individual drawings, gold leafing, or both. Perishable remains were taken home by the public and donated to local shelters and individual portraits were gifted to their subjects.

A journey through Tulare County becomes a tour of what the food we eat every day looks like before it arrives at the supermarket, reminding us that we often forget how agricultural production is complicated by the social and political points of view we each  carry. This project was commissioned by the Visalia Art Consortium in Tulare County, CA – the leading dairy and citrus producer in the country.

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Young participants adding their creations to the sculpture centerpiece (sculpture by Duane McDiarmid).

Viewers stand at the opening of the stage for an interior view and see the “backs” of the 150 paintings. The portrait “back” is a silhouetted view of a more concealed profile of the agricultural worker. Viewers  also view the portrait “fronts” from the exterior of the main stage.  From this viewpoint, each portrait takes on the character of a unique individual. The painting process allows the maker, among those who benefit from their labor, to gain familiarity with each individual.

Portraits by Lori Esposito presented in the textile windows of the sculpture.

Botanist and community leader Manuel Jimenez picks and offers a guava. He established Bravo Lake Botanical Garden, a community foraging garden with an eclectic variety of native and non-native fruits, trees, and flowering shrubs. Manuel shares stories about maintaining invasive species, occasional acts of vandalism, and the joys of working with local youth to design attractive, culturally meaningful and sustainable gardens.

Portraits capture the diverse agricultural community of Visalia.