I became interested in making soap as a creative process, and the first samples were an attempt to follow the recipes of the pioneers. I, therefore, kept animal lard from bacon and duck, and I collected hardwood ashes for several months to make lye in the traditional matter, thanks to friends with fireplaces and forests.
The first soap was a great learning curve and a disaster in the final result. Some of the soap had a turd-like appearance. I decided to follow along, and enhance the look to it make it look more like poop. I painted them brown, added textures, and gave them poopy shapes. I began thinking of the relationship between soap and poop, both being elements I encounter in my daily life.
Why did people call it night soil in the olden days? Is it because it integrates quickly enhancing soil, the element that we depend on to survive? Why do we dislike talking about it, just because we have to be careful about how we dispose of it? It’s a taboo. Would making a soap poop make it clean and approachable? Would it work as an invitation for people to share their views and experiences around this human experience?
I am also interested in seeing the potential of soap as a communicator. In these times of obsessive (and necessary) hand washing and surface sterilization, soap emerges like a
metaphor of our times. Can soap and sanitation be a metaphor for the fears we are facing during the pandemic? Somehow, we are confident that soap will keep us safe from the virus.
Furthermore, soap as a reference to cleanliness brings analogies to laundry of capital and hygiene of the economy. That is another theme that is not openly discussed, another cultural taboo. There are lots of businesses that have served to legalize monies that are not clean. But do we know which ones they are? Of course not. Maybe this is an opportunity to talk about some of this dirtiness too.
Maria Gomez Umana
(BFA, MFA) is a visual artist and elementary teacher in Montessori schools. In her art practice she has explored healing herself and her environment using found elements and mixed media. www.mariagomezumana.com
Beth Shepherd: Intersection:
Soap-Poop Meets the Urban Water System.
Beth Shepherd, View of Soap Poop Sculpture near the Ottawa River, 2020.
Beth Shepherd, Ottawa Urban Hydrologic System, 2020, Poster
Inspired by artist Maria Gomez Umana’s foray into soap-making that resembled poop, I decided to extend my current project on urban ecology to take a closer look at Ottawa’s water purification and wastewater treatment systems.
Unlike Maria, who made her soap-poop from scratch, I reworked some old soap, candle wax and the ends of tubes of acrylic paint from which I modeled my soap-poop
Then soap-poop in hand, I headed off to the Britannia Water Filtration Plant to take some pictures. A few days later I went to the Robert O. Pickard Environmental Centre where all Ottawa’s wastewater is treated. Finally I biked to the Lemieux Island Water Purification Plant and took some more pictures with my soap-poop. The map shows the three facilities located on the Ottawa River.
In keeping with a theme of conversations in a relaxed outdoor living room setting, I decided to present my work in the form of a “coffee table book” to inspire conversation. My coffee table book contains the photographs I took, an Ottawa Urban Hydrologic System map and a related article I wrote on the relationships between water, soap, poop, COVID-19 and climate change. Visitors could sit and flip through the COVID-friendly pages (all in plastic and wipeable) while we had very interesting conversations.
Read more HERE
With degrees in biology, psychology and art history, eco-artist Beth Shepherd
explores the interrelationships between urban ecology, climate change and COVID-19. bethshepherd.ca
Beth Shepherd, wiping the images of her coffee-table book between uses.
Rene Price: Toilet Towers
and Poop Intersects Toiletpaper Roll
Rene Price: Walking the Man.
is an Idea Guy/Inventor, Quirky Mockartist, Scribbler, Rascal, Non-Smoking Cyber Luddite and Grand Avocationist. www.reneprice.ca