1. Along with Megan K. Halpern, I offered a preliminary version of this typology which can help to analyze the contributions of projects at the intersection of art and science. See Rogers and Halpern, “Art-Science Collaborations, Complexities, and Challenges,” in Routledge Handbook of Public Communication of Science and Technology, 3rd edition, eds. Massimiano Bucchi and Brian Trench, 214-237 (New York: Routledge, 2021).
Kirsten Stolle: Only You Can Prevent A Forest is funded in part by a grant from South Arts in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts and the South Carolina Arts Commission, and with the generous support of Charleston magazine, and Mindelle Seltzer and Robert Lovinger.
Kirsten Stolle is a visual artist working in collage, text-based images, and installation. Her research-based practice is grounded in the investigation of agribusiness propaganda, food politics, and biotechnology. Stolle was born in Newton, MA in 1967, lived and worked in the San Francisco Bay Area for 19 years, and currently lives in Asheville, NC. Her work is included in the permanent collections of the San José Museum of Art, Crocker Art Museum, and the Minneapolis Institute of Art.
Solo exhibitions include NOME Projects, Berlin; Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art, Winston-Salem, NC; Winthrop University, Rock Hill, SC; Second Street Gallery, Charlottesville, VA; Turchin Center for the Visual Arts/Appalachian State University, Boone, NC; Tracey Morgan Gallery, Asheville, NC; Dolby Chadwick Gallery, San Franicsco, CA; Roy G Biv Gallery, Columbus, OH; and Kathryn Markel Fine Arts, NYC.
Select group exhibition highlights include Balzer Projects (Basel), Datscha Radio (Berlin), Terrain Biennial, Fridman Gallery (NYC), Lesley Heller Workspace (NYC), John Jay College of Criminal Justice (NYC), San Jose Museum of Art (CA), The Mint Museum (NC), Gregg Museum of Art & Design (NC), Hunterdon Museum of Art (NJ), Tweed Museum of Art (MN), Riverside Art Museum (CA), Triton Museum of Art (CA), The Billboard Creative (CA), Jack Fischer Gallery (CA 2-person show), Power Plant Gallery/Duke University (NC), and the Torpedo Factory (VA).
Her work has been published in The Atlantic, Photograph, Topic magazine, The Billboard Creative, TAZ Berlin, Le Monde diplomatique, Berlin Art Link, SLEEK magazine, Made in Mind magazine, Poetry magazine, The Creators Project, Widewalls, Spolia magazine, Burnaway, Vhcle magazine, DIALOGIST, SLICE magazine, New American Paintings, The Ignatian literary magazine, Eleven Eleven, Hayden’s Ferry Review, and Manifest’s International Drawing Annual.
She is a recipient of a Pollock-Krasner Foundation grant, a Dave Bown Projects award, as well as grants from the San Francisco Arts Commission, Artists’ Fellowship Inc., The Puffin Foundation, Change Inc., and the Creative Capacity Fund. She has been awarded residencies at the Ucross Foundation, Millay Colony, Blue Mountain Center, Marble House Project, Willapa Bay AiR, Oregon College of Art and Craft, Spiro Arts, The Anderson Center, and Ballinglen Arts Foundation.
Stolle received a BA in Visual Arts from Framingham State University, and completed studies at Richmond College (London, England), and Massachusetts College of Art and Design (Boston, MA).
Learn more about Kirsten Stolle: KirstenStolle.com
The Artist in the Archive: The Discoveries of Kirsten Stolle
By Hannah Star Rogers
Only You Can Prevent A Forest challenges viewers to examine the often-assumed differences between art and science with boundary-crossing works. Artist Kirsten Stolle’s works collectively show that categories of art and science are determined not by universal axioms but by practices that circumscribe bodies of knowledge. Our realities are constructed by social forces that we shape through our actions. These artworks draw on corporate archives to collectively form an alternative archive of the artists’ ideas about the social impacts of the agrichemical industry.
Kirsten Stolle is a visual artist working in collage, drawing, and mixed-media who often focuses on food politics and biotechnology. In this exhibition, Stolle extends her work into addressing the connection between chemical companies and the U.S. military. What most distinguishes her engagements with corporate language and image is her research-based practice grounded in the investigation of corporate propaganda. Stolle’s aesthetic strategies are not focused on the technical details of the chemicals, but rather on the context of the art-science work.
Stolle’s potent mix of text and materials carry the weight of historical and current choices in many areas of life through chemical company influence, creating works that include ink prints, collages, pop-art references, site-specific sculpture, and salon-style gallery walls. Text is made material: viewers are asked to dwell on the words of the exhibition’s title as a green neon light sculpture, and on those found in Faith, Hope & $5,000 (2017), repurposed from the title of Dan Forrestal’s corporate history of the Monsanto Chemical Company. By giving these texts material heft, Stolle illuminates these companies’ intentions.
The Science For A Better Life (2020-2022) series repurposes thirty years of aggressive advertising campaign images and texts from Bayer, Monsanto, and Dow Chemical, which marketed their toxic products in popular magazines. Using the conventions of erasure poetry, Stolle’s work reveals by obscuring. She collages, cuts, and draws, redacting texts to reveal connections. The distinctions between government and corporations fall away so viewers are invited to think of the use of these supposed divisions within the agrichemical sector. Left with an erasure text like: “New Hunters: Monsanto killers solve problems,” from the New Hunters (2022) collage based on a 1965 advertisement, the artist’s new texts prove sticky. This invites viewers to hold on to these words, so that when they encounter Plant Protection (2022), they are primed to read this towering assemblage of plastic pesticide bottles covered in gold glitter as an absurdity of gilded toxic greed.
In one of the six HERBS (2022) collages, we encounter a wide strip of bright orange vinyl pressed against a letterpressed quote from a Bayer CEO explaining that when Bayer acquired Monsanto in 2018, the Monsanto name would be subsumed under the Bayer corporation. The quote asserts that the Bayer name had been chosen for the company because of “strong, positive recognition” among consumers, as opposed to Monsanto’s dubious international reputation. Stolle memorializes this act of naming and the power companies have to disconnect themselves from histories through mergers, acquisitions, and speech-acts. In doing so, she draws attention to the company’s greenwashing tactics and insisting on the long lives of corporations and the lasting effects of corporate decision-making, which ultimately can be influenced by social values. The most striking work on the HERBS salon wall is an exploration of the lesser-known color-named Rainbow Herbicides used in the American invasion of Việt Nam. The herbicides were named for the color-coded bands around the 55-gallon drums used to ship and store the chemicals. As the reality of what these colors mean sinks into viewer’s minds the colors are transformed from pop-ish fun to blazing warnings.
Stolle’s work not only gleans from corporate fields but also plants new ideas for viewers. Art-science work can be thought of in four major categories: conveyance, contributive, contextual, and critical modes. Stolle’s artworks carry all of these categories. Combined, they offer viewers new discoveries about relationships for which they may have never seen textual evidence. Information is being conveyed through this but so are critical modes with which viewers can approach these details with an understanding of the broader context of corporate connections. This gives rise to the most exciting aspect to Stolle’s work: its potential to contribute new knowledge by bringing together newly formed strands of thought which can form into new narratives for viewers.
The artist in the archive returns to us with innovative ways to visualize social realities and relationships achieved through seductive colors and forms that draw us into textual complications. Even as the artist reveals our condition through dystopic histories, her works lead viewers toward awareness of Bayer-Monsanto and Dow’s greenwashing by exposing their historical connections to warfare and encouraging viewers toward curiosity about the role of such companies in their everyday lives. Stolle’s works leave open the possibility of the better future chemical companies could never provide: the future Stolle has planted through these artworks.
. Dan Forrestal, Faith, Hope & $5,000 (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1977).
. Erasure poetry was recently used to great effect in Redaction: A Project, a project by visual artists and filmmaker Titus Kaphar and poet Reginald Dwayne Betts to explore ethical and current documents related to bail, court fees, and fines for the MoMA PS1’s Spring 2019 exhibition.
. A. L. Young, The History, Use, Disposition and Environmental Fate of Agent Orange (New York: Springer, 2009).
. Along with Megan K. Halpern, I offered a preliminary version of this typology which can help to analyze the contributions of projects at the intersection of art and science. See Rogers and Halpern, “Art-Science Collaborations, Complexities, and Challenges,” in Routledge Handbook of Public Communication of Science and Technology, 3rd edition, eds. Massimiano Bucchi and Brian Trench, 214-237 (New York: Routledge, 2021).