The Granary Project 2007-10
Artist: Dan Peterman (American, b. 1960)
Materials: Recycled plastic material over steel frame
Provenance: Commissioned by the Art in Architecture Program, State of Illinois Capital Development Board
Dan Peterman’s commissioned work, The Granary Project, builds on themes that have occupied the internationally recognized, Chicago-based artist for the past quarter century. The artist’s sculpture, installation work, and social activism have long provided a critique of contemporary culture’s relationship to the earth.
The structure which greets the viewer is a ghost-like contemporary re-interpretation of a brick-red earthenware funerary object glazed with green lead that can be found in the collection of The Art Institute of Chicago.
Dating from the Han Dynasty, the small, slab-built ceramic building (no more than 15” tall) represented a granary that would have been used to store millet, barley, and wheat in the east central Chinese province of Henan. According to the museum, during this period of Chinese history, burial practices were filtering down from the Han aristocracy to local officials and landowners. Tomb models related to farming, an honored occupation, became increasingly popular.
The sculpture’s contemporary presence can be appreciated on multiple levels. This structure stands in rich farmland which has historically provided much of the U.S. with bountiful harvests. This field continues to be farmed and has been certified as an organic food production space through a program administered by the University of Illinois Extension Agency. Echoing its forbear, The Granary Project seems ready to accept a load of grain at any moment.
Peterman’s object, while distinctly oriental in character, reflects elements of a universal approach to agricultural storage with its raised cupola that would have been vented to promote the drying circulation of air. This same cupola feature can be found on many 19th century barns and storage sheds throughout Illinois and the Midwest.
On an entirely different level, Peterman’s artwork provides a critique of contemporary land use practices as it draws attention to issues of food security and land use. The suburban sprawl of residential development which has characterized local land use for the past 20 years has decimated thousands of acres of some of the world’s most fertile farmland. The artist hopes his work will pique the interest of the viewer in the “locavore” movement, which promotes smaller, more local food production, over the mega-farms which have proliferated over the past 25 years.
Finally, The Granary Project creates a conceptual and physical connection, via the nearby Metra line, between world-renowned collections at The Art Institute of Chicago and the Nathan Manilow Sculpture Park.
The installation of The Granary Project has been sponsored in memory of Anne and David by Alan Kawaters.