Patty Arnold

Morning Dew on Rice Shoots

Morning Dew on Rice Shoots, July 2004

Season of Rice Topics include:

By Season
By Process
Aerial Views

Southern India | Kerala

[agri]culture in the East and West

The growing season explored on foot and by air. This project was extended to view and compare rice production and cultural aspects of the east (Bali and India) and the west (California).

Artist Statement

Landscape contains the physical: earth and trees, rivers and oceans and reveals the effect of water, wind, light and time. Landscape may be scarred by the movement of man, animal or machine and these traces hold the history of man and creature. John Brinkerhoff Jackson defines landscape as “a composition of man-made or man-modified spaces.” Intervention has changed the Sacramento Valley floodplains into wetlands. What happens when wetlands become housing developments? How does the wildlife respond to these introduced climactic changes? How do you measure what is gained and lost by each intervention in the landscape? Can commerce and trade operate in balance with the environment and produce without destruction? Today, the rice fields are calm and still, framed by the curving checks, as the water reflects the sky above. The seasonal filling and flooding will begin soon and create pools in a landscape marked by pumps, drains and checks for the husbandry of water. The rice will be harvested, the fields flooded and the birds will pass though in migration. In spring, seeds will be sown and the process will begin again. The dust and activity of the October harvest settles to a quiet pond marked by clumps of mud, stray straw and a slurry of feathers. Here, I have touched beauty, complications and subtleties.

Over the past years I have photographed rice fields documenting the changes and transformations in the landscape. I have observed the water flowing and dissipating, the various processes from the harvest to discing the dry earth, and I have witnessed the changing bird, insect and wildlife populations. I have documented the mud and drains, trucks and planes and have come to respect this grain, which feeds half the world. Rice in America also has a history which can be traced back to Africa and the female slaves who hid the seeds in their hair. In Sutter, Butte, Colusa and Yuba County, rice was introduced by Japanese immigrants, who, in the early 1900's were producing large percentages of California's produce. When I began this study, I thought it would be a fairly straightforward look at a specific use of the land, agriculture. I had planned to study a specific place over an extended period of time and study the changes that occur using photography as my tool. What I found was a landscape functioning in many layers: agricultural, historical, recreational, environmental and political and there is a complexity of issues involving land use, water use, and habitat. This project expanded globally with rice farming in Bali and most recently Southern India. These images contrast the western high tech approach to farming with the eastern high touch practice and strong community bonding.

A very special Thank You to: Sonja and Marty Steidelmeyer for their time, generosity, knowledge and their care for community and the environment.

All Images © Patty Arnold 2004. All rights Reserved.