SANTA FE, N.M. — “You know when you walk into a house and it smells awesome, and you say ‘What’s cooking?’ … And they say, ‘Oh, it’s just garlic.’ ”
Liz Brindley says this back-and-forth happens all the time and it’s because garlic is a staple in almost every good meal. But the local artist, who also studies farming, says people often don’t understand how valuable and fascinating the plant is, describing it as “ubiquitous and underappreciated.”
It wasn’t until this past planting season that she realized all of the symbolism of and lessons one can learn from the simple flavor additive.
Brindley, known largely for her printmaking, and for combining her love of food and art, has a new solo show created as an homage to garlic that is debuting this weekend through Stranger’s Collective. The show, which includes prints, a garlic-inspired mural and an installation featuring pieces of garlic, will be up at the NO LAND gallery until March 10.
“Visitors will feel like they’ve literally entered a garlic clove,” said Strangers Collective co-founder Jordan Eddy.
Brindley, who moved to Santa Fe last year and began working alongside local farmers, started planting garlic this fall and discovered “A Garlic Testament” by local farmer and renowned author Stanley Crawford. The book helped her better understand garlic’s value, not only for its role in so many recipes, but also because of what can be gleaned from how it grows.
Garlic is planted in the fall and not ready until summer. One clove is put into the ground and, at harvest time, a bulb of only about 12 cloves is produced, making the crop very “precious.”
“It makes us learn patience, it makes us learn to wait,” said Brindley. “It’s in everything, but not everyone thinks about the time that it takes to make one head of garlic.”
Humans should also take note of the cloves’ planting cycle, she said, which utilizes the winter months to grow to its fullest. Brindley added that the more serene season is a natural time for people to do the same.
“We’ve lost touch with the seasons, and winter is such a time of hibernation, slowing down, self reflection and looking at ways to grow as people,” she said.
At her exhibition, one room will have a kitchen installation, as well as food and harvest-inspired prints on display. In another room will be the large, painted mural with abstractions of garlic heads and scapes, or the tops of the plants. She said she was inspired by the beauty and “spring”-like quality of the dark green scapes.
One of the exhibition rooms will be half-filled with a layer of soil. Visitors will be able to take their shoes off, walk around and feel connected to the earth, said Brindley.
Real pieces of garlic will be used in an installation piece. Brindley will place collected garlic skins on a hand-made table. Visitors are invited to bring their own to add to the collection. She hopes they will investigate the display and find “the beauty and the delicateness” of the garlic skins.
Brindley will use the skins in a Feb. 8 papermaking session as part of the exhibition. The paper, she said, is intended to be used for a recipe swap on the show’s closing night. A printmaking workshop will also be held, on Jan. 27, in which Brindley will assist participants in printing designs inspired by products from the Farmer’s Market.
“Garlic” opens Saturday from 6-9 p.m.