Over the last 18 months, poet and artist Precious Okoyomon has transformed the AAM rooftop seasonally, installing a mixture of sculpture and organic matter to create a garden based on themes of pleasure, abundance, and desire. Okoyomon was in residence in Aspen on multiple occasions to develop and transform the project over its entire duration, making it a live and responsive commission that would literally grow and replenish over time.
Working in collaboration with local growers, Okoyomon combines plants traditionally deemed invasive and dangerous with plants indigenous to the region, a juxtaposition that speaks to Okoyomon’s observation of the natural world as itself an object of colonization and enslavement. By combining invasive plants such as kudzu and honeysuckle with indigenous dandelions, mugwort, and milk thistle, Okoyomon has furthered their ongoing investigation of the racialization of the natural world. They have cross-pollinated these plants to rebuild the soil, forming a new abundant biosphere. Considering Aspen’s unique climate and topography, Okoyomon’s garden also inverts the idea that the art exhibition is a metaphor for an ecosystem by asking the viewer to consider this real ecosystem as an exhibition instead.
The garden is endlessly hydrated by a stream of black algae water and, amongst the plants, Okoyomon presents larger-than-life-size “angel protectors”—sculptures made from soil, clay, and scagliola—to protect the garden and those within it. The collaboration with nearby Anderson Ranch Arts Center adds to the strong history of ceramic practice in the Roaring Fork Valley since the late 1960s.
Okoyomon also initiated a series of collaborations with musicians to create organic soundtracks for the garden that followed the changing seasons. Each musician used a combination of external samples and sounds recorded from within the garden to compose an individual response to it. Visitors are encouraged to move throughout the garden while respecting protocol for social distancing to experience these multisensory (and in part, edible) elements.
Throughout the exhibition’s course, Okoyomon has teamed up with several friends—artists, poets, musicians, theorists, filmmakers, or performers in their own right—to activate the exhibition through a series of live performances and gatherings. To celebrate the passing of one season to the next, Okoyomon held services on the solstices. These services focused on Black feminism, self-fragilization, and queerness, and participants were asked to chant, meditate, and dream new worlds.
A poetry reading was held on June 21 in celebration of the 2022 Summer Solstice. Okoyomon, along with poets Diamond Stingily and Simone White, read original poems for the garden’s final opening reception. The event highlighted Okoyomon’s beginnings as a poet, as well as the long and vivid history of exchange between artists and poets.
AAM exhibitions are made possible by the Marx Exhibition Fund. General exhibition support is provided by the Toby Devan Lewis Visiting Artist Fund. Additional support is provided by the AAM National Council and Susan & Larry Marx.
Special thanks to Bluegreen & Bluegreen BLD.
Tuesday–Sunday, 10 AM–6 PM
General operating support is provided by Colorado Creative Industries. CCI and its activities are made possible through an annual appropriation from the Colorado General Assembly and federal funds from the National Endowment for the Arts.