Sculptor Mel Chin explores ways that art can provoke greater social awareness and responsibility. His interest in the environment has led him to collaborate with scientists and government agencies to create work that transcends traditional sculpture. In 1990 he began a lengthy residency at the Walker Art Center to create an installation titled Revival Field: Projection & Procedure. He worked with scientists to design gardens of hyperaccumulators–plants that can draw heavy metals from contaminated soil. The site of an old landfill near downtown St. Paul, Minnesota, was selected. The contaminated earth was enclosed with a chain-link fence and divided by paths that form an X. The project’s boundaries were marked by a square. Chin conceived of these overlays as a target, a metaphorical reference to the work’s pinpoint cleanup. The divisions were also functional, separating different varieties of plants from each other for study.
Revival Field and the National Endowment for the Arts
In 1990 the Citizens’ Environmental Coalition Education Fund submitted a proposal to the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) to fund Mel Chin’s work on Revival Field. Despite recommendations by committees who reviewed the proposal, the director of the NEA rejected the application, citing questions of aesthetic quality not addressed in the proposal.