Lehman College Art Gallery
Slug Tongue. 2009. Spores on paper. 25 x 19 inches
First—the paper. The paper is a manufactured paper from Australia. It is a white paper treated with a black painted surface. The paint is mixed with pumice prior to the factory silk screening process. When the paint dries, the paper has a slight tooth. Mushroom spores are infinitesimal, approximately two trillion per tablespoon. Therefore, when they fall onto the painted surface, they are really falling into a painted forest of nooks and crannies that help hold them tightly in place. They become locked in and if the surface is not disturbed by any rubbing or scraping, the spore will remain indefinitely. The drawings are finished with a thick mat and backing. Glass is placed on top and the edges are sealed with tape, forming an air lock that keeps them exceptionally stable.
I pick the majority of my mushrooms in the wild, which requires many hours of walking through woods and fields in urban as well as remote and rural landscapes. Mushrooms grow everywhere, but for a very short time before they mature, drop their spores and begin to deteriorate. I have had the opportunity to travel to the Olympic Peninsula of the United States, Alaska, Mexico, Costa Rica, Europe and Asia to pick mushrooms for spore drawings, and have been known to pull high speed u-turns on highways to return to a mushroom spotting.
It drives passengers crazy.
"Jim Toia began producing spore drawings over a decade ago and is continually experimenting with the process. The procedure of creating spore drop prints is one that mycologists use to help identify individual species of mushrooms. They
will take a sample species, put it on a clean sheet of paper and protect it from all disturbances so that an accurate, uninflected mapping of the mushroom’s dropping of the spores is taken. Toia is not necessarily interested in documenting spore patterns, but instead strives to collaborate with nature to create individual works of art. He creates interaction between the mushroom, chance and himself by encouraging air currents around the mushrooms. He also layers the activities of different species, and moves the mushrooms around to activate the full surface of the paper. Because the spores themselves are microscopic and therefore impossible to see until they have landed in quantity on the paper, the artist literally works in the dark with only his prior experience to guide him. The results are eerily beautiful images that encompass both space and time."
Mushroom Spore Drawings/ Comments by Donna Gustafson, 2002
Currency of Earth. 2009. Spores on paper. 25 x 19 inches
Poseidon’s Heart. 2009. Spores on paper. 25 x 19 inches