Would You Kick This Out of Your Greenhouse?


Sculpture by Tess Dalhgren PHOTO BY DEREK LACTAOEN

That's what happened at Humboldt State University, home to the largest undergraduate botany program in the country.  The sculpture was placed in the greenhouse as part of a campus-wide sculpture walk designed to display student art at 60 different locations around campus.  It's up to the campus building coordinators to decide whether the art submitted to their building is appropriate.  In this case, the greenhouse manager himself thought that, being a college campus, art should be seen and discussed, but no, it had to go.

Here's a smart and well-reasoned discussion of the issue from journalism professor and columnist Marcy Burstiner.  She thinks that student art needs to be exhibited, failing any concerns about safety, space limitations, logistics, etc.  As it is, this piece has been moved to the university gallery so that it can, in fact, be seen.

I have to say–I find this piece to be not in the least bit shocking.  Like, not at all.  We've got a torso, we've got a big vine, we have an obvious statement of some sort about plants and sex–so what?  A greenhouse is lurid enough already; this hardly tarts it up more than the orchids and pitcher plants already do.

Your thoughts?


  1. I find it disturbing in a creepy sci-fi kind of way which means it should stay. It will get more exposure in the university gallery though. The colors and general movement of the piece also totally remind me of a carrot and that idea may be more pronounced in a green house setting.

  2. Some think it’s art. I think it is a piece of crap. Letting this student keep this idiotic piece of waste anywhere in public furthers the entitlement generation.

    Should not that stuff have been recycled and put to better use. There is nothing sustainable about art
    The TROLL

  3. I love it. I immediately wondered how she made it and using what materials. The umbilicus-stem-penis is genius. Art is supposed to make us uncomfortable and shake us out of our day to day stupor.

  4. I have to agree that some art should provoke a response. Instead of being able to say “oh that’s nice” people would actually discuss this piece. Even if I don’t like some sculptures, that doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t be seen. Shaking things up is a good thing.

  5. I’m not shocked at the art, and I’m not shocked that it caused some controversy. What I AM really shocked about is this comment by one of your regular gadflies:

    “There is nothing sustainable about art.”

    But why am I shocked? I know there is ignorance everywhere and I know that some people enjoy revealing their ignorance — it generates comments like the one I’m typing right now. I guess I’m just constantly shocked at the depth of ignorance. Or am I confusing stupidity with ignorance? Obviously I need more coffee. [apologies for the off-topic rant but it’s Amy’s fault]

  6. “Art is supposed to make us uncomfortable”, Kelly? Really ?

    Saying this is what art should be is like saying all radio shows should be like Howard Stern’s. It must discomfit to be worthwhile.

    No. Maybe art is supposed to make us feel something – peaceful, happy, sad, shocked, angry, turned-on, what-have-you. But I’d say if the only thing art has the power to make us feel is discomfort, then it’s not really relevant & most people won’t seek it out. I have enough randomness in my life pulling me out of the “day-to-day stupor”.

    That said, I don’t find it offensive, but my children would. Likely my husband would, too. To me, it’s just weird.

  7. I have no problem with it in a gallery setting but in a greenhouse? Maybe it’s just because I used to work in a greenhouse but I don’t want your stuff in my way when I’m trying to get work done whether it’s a backpack or a statement.

  8. I don’t find it to have much artistic merit, but then again I didn’t find Mapplethorpe’s “bull whip up the ass hole” to have much artistic value either.
    The only way I would have this in my greenhouse is if it came with a fully loaded automated injection feeding irrigation system. Then I would see the value in it.
    Otherwise I view it for what it is, bad student work trying in vain to evoke attention to itself under the faux cover of art, it screams ‘notice me, notice me, notice me. – Not, ‘ look at my artistic talent’ .

  9. I’d kick it out of my greenhouse if I had one because it’d take up space that plants could be using.

    But I don’t find it offensive or shocking. In fact, I think it’s a bit trite — there is nothing either new or uncommon about art students making penis-centred art.

    (As an art student, lo these many years now, I painted still lives to distinguish myself from my penis-painting peers. Then I decided to major in English instead).

    However, the piece would amuse me as an outdoor installation, perhaps with pumpkins growing around it.

  10. I am not shocked by anything other than the fact that ‘it had to go’. I am not shocked that some persons posting comments did not like it. I think it is almost ugly, the si-fi-ness of it is unattractive to me.

  11. It’s at the largest undergraduate botany program in the country, but it’s also in Arcata, where the non-university citizens are probably at least bemused and maybe a little shocked. If they won’t have it, I will and they can send it C.O.D. 😉

  12. Not sure why this is offensive. It’s not denigrating any person, nor making light of any serious situation. I also love Lady Gaga, so that’s probably why I’m not offended. Seriously, so it’s phallic – why the fuss? I think it’s wonderfully creative, and I can imagine a whole garden theme full of vines, roots, and tubers running out of and into random busts and torsos. Roots are kind of sexually suggestive if you think about it anyway.

    At least this one got the contour, proportions and anatomy correct, which is more than I can say of those awful resin animals.
    It holds my interest, which is also more than I can say for those overpriced pieces of scrap metal that certain pretentious people I know feel better for having in their gardens. Far more offensive to me are those mirror tiled balls and bottle trees being called “art”.

  13. Haha, it would be far more interesting (and appropriate for the greenhouse) if it were hooked up to a faucet and functioned as a hose (or better yet, a fertigation system!).

  14. I don’t find it shocking or offensive. I do find it boring and immature but it’s student art and most college kids are immature (I know I was).

    Would I keep it in my greenhouse? No, I’d prefer something a bit more functional in a greenhouse and non-functional art just takes up valuable space. If I was in charge of a college greenhouse would I keep it? Yeah probably, if kids have an issue with sex a greenhouse isn’t the place to be (and probably a secular college isn’t either).

  15. I’m with all the others that said been there, done that, now I’m bored.

    I bet the kid who made it was stoked to have it taken down. Now s/he has campus notoriety.

  16. I like the idea of its being a fertigation system. Not shocking. I love the colors. I agree that it istypical of some student art, but we all have to go through these stages.

  17. Not offended, but don’t see its value as art. Admittedly, I don’t get “art”; the Sistine Chapel is art. The “David” statue is art. The Parthenon is art. This is just, as someone put it, immature crap.

  18. Wow, everyone thinks they are a knowledgeable art critic. If you don’t have a background in humanities, art, etc. you don’t have the background to decide what is “art.” Yes, you can decide if you’d want it in your greenhouse.

    I actually find it interesting on multiple levels: social commentary (after the misogyny of the last election and clarification of how far women have not come), irony (from what grows what?), etc.

    And art has been VERY controversial over many centuries. The last commenter, for example, mentions “David” as a clear example. Well, David was greeted with a barrage of stones by upset Florentinians when it was unveiled. There have been riots over ballets (e.g., Rite of Spring), even critics at the time pronounced some of the most beloved symphonies as wretched. There are plenty of examples to choose.

    Open your minds. And grow up enough to just say “I have no idea if it’s art, but I don’t like it” instead.

    I like it, I think it’s art, and no way would I have this on my property.

  19. @Pam J:

    I am a photographerand regular show and sell my work. There is nothing sustainable about my or anyone else’s photographs. What I find amusing is that the general attitude of artists is the same as tree huggers. They can take refuse out of the recycling stream/ walk through the woods and it is OK because they are enlightened.

    So anytime a plastic bottle or piece of metal is removed from the recycling channel something new must be added to replace it. This causes new strains on the “carbon” footprints, more energy to make new stuff, more energy to ship it etc etc.

    So art is not sustainable it deplete natural resources just as excess packaging etc etc.

    The TROLL

  20. “If you don’t have a background in humanities, art, etc. you don’t have the background to decide what is “art.”

    Another one of the enlightened ones! What an elitist statement! So do you stand guard at galleries asking everyone to show their Dali Lama fan club card just to get in the doors?

    Let’s take a likeness of you place it in a bottle and piss on it and see how you feel about art then!

    What a moron

  21. I totally wanted it to function as a real hose too. Without seeing it in person, there is the definite question as to whether it was really thought out or explored at all but I would almost always let a new artist test things out. Maybe not permanently.

    On the other hand, maybe the greenhouse manager was tired of the….um….vine hitting him in the head. Men are sensitive about other penises!!

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