In my travels for SSSA I have the opportunity to meet some interesting people – part of why I love my job! Such was the case when I traveled to Oregon recently. Part of my trip included meeting with students and faculty at Oregon State University. The students were great and asked a lot of good questions - plus they included pizza for lunch, which is always a welcome treat.
The person I want to tell you about however, is a member of the faculty. His name is Dr. Jay Noller. Aside from being an Associate Professor – Landscape Pedology, he is also an artist. Not just any type of artist, but a soil artist. What do I mean by that? Perhaps the best way to explain this is by using his own words from his OSU website where he says “I am interested in exploring how our inheritance of things past shape our present and future. I do this through creative and integrative study of soils touched by humans. I particularly study soils that are red and have long-term meaning to modern and ancient civilizations.” Add to that a talent for painting as well as the use of soil pigments derived by hand from the soilscapes that he paints and you have a unique study in soil brought to life on canvas.
Jay has worked extensively in Cyprus and Greece as well as Oregon and his artwork reflects his research of these landscapes and soils by using the pigments from those soils. He also uses the art to help him focus in on what he is writing about – whether it be for a journal article or to help the general public to relate to the soils around them.
Recently Jay was commissioned to do a work for the upscale Allison Inn and Spa (located in Oregon’s wine country) with the theme of terroir. Terroir is not easily defined, and in fact if you look you can find many definitions both historical and recent. It is not a quantitative relationship that can be defined, but more of an elusive and complex connection between the soil, geology, vine variety, human factors that all come together to give wine a distinctive taste of the terroir. The work completed for the Inn is an example of the outreach that Jay does to convey a sense of history and place with regard to soils and the landscape.
Jay was kind enough to give me a tour of his studio/gallery and I was truly amazed at what I saw. The link to his gallery is provided below, but I must say that the photos don’t do justice to seeing the real thing in person. The photos just don’t pick up the texture, detail and warmth of the paintings when you are standing in front of them.
You can view Jay’s website at http://soilscapestudio.com/
By the way, if you haven’t been to Oregon or the Oregon State campus in Corvallis, you should take a trip out there. It is beautiful! The people are friendly and downtown Corvallis is a quaint old downtown on the Willamette River with a lot of great locally owned restaurants and places to try Oregon wines or microbrews. If you go for the wine, don't forget to taste for the terroir!