Archival Mounted Photo: Mandan Bride 2019
Mandan Bride, Zea Mays, Randolph, Vermont 2018
Archival digital photograph on hot press cotton paper
Mounted on aluminum
Zea Mays is a plant of great power and spiritual significance to most natives of the Americas. This image is of Mandan Bride, a variety of corn developed by the Mandan people of North Dakota. This specific corn was sourced from Sow True Seed, an open pollination seed project and then grown at HighFields Farm in Vermont aside a forest, in quartz-rich soils requiring little to no irrigation. The corn, post-harvest, was dried, nixtamalized (a process of soaking and cooking the corn) and made into a masa flour to create arepas (a thick corn tortilla common throughout Colombia to Venezuela), for a regenerative food project.
Corn traces its origins to Teosinte, a wild grass that is believed to have been cultivated by natives of Mesoamerica and evolved into our modern-day corn varieties. Now corn has been industrialized, genetically modified for mass production and can be found in animal feed, high fructose corn sweeteners, ethanol and many processed foods.
It is an experience to walk amongst 10-12 foot corn plants. They sway in the wind, rustling together to make a collective sound. Their brace roots are like tiny toes, emerging from the stalk that are white, green, red or purple. An efficient grass species with a unique pollination process, the male flower on the top of the corn stalk drops pollen to the female silks, each silk connected to a single kernel of corn that swells when pollinated. Corn soaks up a lot of nutrients from the soil, which means that the land needs rest and replenishing after growing corn. Conventional agriculture grows corn in the same place year after year, requiring synthetic nutrients to be sprayed, often leading to nitrogen runoff, a main cause of toxic algae blooms in surrounding waters.