Thursday, April 17, 2014

Cage the Mycologist

A new exhibition opened last week at the Horticultural Society of New York to celebrate John Cage the Mycologist. It's called, “By Leaves or Play of Light- John Cage: Artist and Naturalist." (I always knew he was a naturalist at heart). His fungal legacy, I've learned, consists of his revival of the New York Mycological Society in the 1960s and his extensive fungi collection, now at the University of California, Santa Cruz (and, of course, his phenomenal success in game show history). I've also recently learned that Cage did some visual art projects that will be on display at this exhibition. Most notably some of his 1990 "Edible Drawings" made from snow peas, bitter melon, hijiki, and black beans — ingredients in his macrobiotic diet at the time.

He also collaborated on a project with mycologist Alexander H. Smith called The Mushroom Book (1972), a collection of disjointed poems alongside beautifully mushroom illustrations by Lois Long, as well as fields of seemingly random text with sporadic mushroom drawings and details scrawled by Cage all over the page. As he described it in a 1991 interview with John Retallack, this writing was meant to show ”that ideas are to be found in the same way that you find wild mushrooms in the forest, by just looking”; you can’t just come upon them directly, they “come to you as things hidden.”

Learn more about the exhibition here:

Then, buy me a ticket to New York so that I can see it.


Jerome Langguth said...

This is fantastic, Penny. I wish that I could see it in person. Thanks for finding the article, which I will mention in my environmental aesthetics class tomorrow.

The Hort said...

Thanks for your interest in our exhibition! If you can't make it to NYC to see the show in person, you can see images on our website here: