Two weeks ago, I talked about migrating bison and birds and how they might help us rediscover how the health of people and planet were intrinsically connected. It was a story of how the soils of both my birthplace and my current home were created by a symbiotic relationship between lush and diverse prairies and the bison that roamed them. My friend Dan wrote a book that went on for many thousands of words, and I could have gone on for pages elaborating myself, but in response to that email, I got one of those ‘pictures that says a thousand words.’
You see, one of our customers, Cindee Klement, sent me photos of her new sculpture project that told this same story profoundly with no words at all. See her here, with her latest project “Endangered Knowledge: The Soul of Humus”:
Last Thursday, I went for a visit to see it myself in a trip that left me speechless. I learned that Cindee grew up on an arid but irrigated farm in far west Texas. She had heard unbelievable stories of the grasses that were there long before her birth in a land that is now desert. Today, she is a fellow Houstonian who lives along the banks of our primary waterway, Buffalo Bayou, and realized that that was a name of deep significance to our lost heritage whose meaning had been forgotten.
Having been inspired the story of grazing animals that collaborated with prairie grasses to originally create our region’s life-giving carbon-storing soils, she decided to create an epic work of art that flips that script – creating a bison out of soil and the grasses that made them.
Underneath is a structure of welded and woven steel, but the dirt, and grass and roots are all you see. The majestic beast’s hide is made of clay, its coat of diverse grasses, and the hair on its face of fine fibrous roots. The birds on its back, which were inspired by a visit Cindee made to a regenerative bison ranch, are made of bronze, as is the manure left along the trail to its present ‘grazing’ site. This creates a somewhat surreal visual dynamic between the daunting mass of the clay and grass beast and the import of the life cycling all around it.
Here it is in full as best as I could capture it in a single image:
The body is large and powerful – the eyes almost haunting. You can almost feel him contemplating the meaning of his next bite in gratitude to the soil and grass emerging from it. I am struck by how no words, no factoid, nor no chart my scientific mind could ever produce might compete with this work of art. Cindee’s story makes it compelling, but the art truly speaks for itself. It’s powerful. It’s epic.
The sculpture is currently on display in an old concrete grain silo along the train tracks that parallel the bayou named after its ancestors. Just a mile or so downstream, lies the point on the bayou where nearly 200 years ago the Allen Brother’s founded what became the city of Houston. But for at least another 11,000 years before that, the indigenous people who lived here hunted bison along that same bayou using the waterway itself as part of the hunt. Cindee’s sculpture strikes as something that is at once a fitting metaphor for our region’s history – a former wetland prairie now a hub of industry and technology covered by sprawling concrete, and also a forward looking ecological ‘golem’ – a creature created literally of the place to (hopefully) serve the purpose of the place.
Cindee wants her sculpture to be a message to the future – a message of reimagining how we humans might live respectfully and productively within and as a part of this coastal prairie ecosystem. But its literal future is still uncertain. Cindee is considering options to transform the original sculpture into bronze for permanent outdoor exhibition. Personally, I would like to see it on display as part of this project where many people might see and hear the message on a day in the park, thus putting this sculpture worth more than a thousand words in a place where the people can rediscover and remember forever this “Endangered Knowledge.”
You can learn more about the sculpture and Cindee’s other work on her web site. For those in (or soon passing through) this region, the sculpture will be on display through December 4, 2021 at the “Sawyer Yards” Art Studio as part of an exhibit appropriately titled “Altamira: The Primal Urge to Create.”
Blue Nest Beef Co-Founder & CEO