When I was a little girl I played in the dirt. Armed with a colander, I used to strain dirt through the holes, leaving behind pebbles and stray pieces of leaves and grass.
Ultimately, I ended up with dirt that was as fine as talcum powder. I would let it slide over my palms, tickling my fingers and cooling my skin. I’m not sure what I was going to do with this dirt but I placed it where all children place their treasures at this age- a shoe box.
My dad found the box tucked away in the back of the garage and promptly threw it away. I was heartbroken, it had taken days to fill the box with the right consistency, hours of removing tiny pebbles and stray weeds.
He was totally unsympathetic. It was just dirt, he said.
The Philbrook Museum of Tulsa is currently featuring an artist that also plays with dirt. She used the red dirt of Oklahoma to create a incredibly intricate rug.
The rug takes up an entire room and is roped off to prevent careless footsteps or children who are like me and enjoy playing in dirt. She used pieces of shoe soles to make patterns that ultimately remind you of both the Native American culture and a Persian rug. The drift of color across the rug from reds to pinks to reds again, gives the illusion of fading spots in an antique heirloom.
The height of the rug is precisely uniform, as are the margins. No dust settles on the edges giving you a clue that this was taken from the earth. No stray pebbles or leaves.
Rena Detrixhe uses the red dirt to "connect her project with the land and the people who live on it". Her work will be available until June 30 at the downtown museum in Tulsa if you happen pass by.
One things is clear, no one threw away her box of dirt when she was little.