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June 2022 First Friday: “Plumb: Sphagnum Moss as Ecosystem Engineer” by Anne Yoncha

June 3, 2022 @ 6:00 pm - 8:00 pm

June 2022 First Friday
“Plumb: Sphagnum Moss as Ecosystem Engineer” by Anne Yoncha
Friday, June 3


Arts on Main will host “Plumb: Sphagnum Moss as Ecosystem Engineer” by Anne Yoncha from June 3- June 11.  “Plumb” is based on an art-science collaboration that began as a Fulbright fellowship in 2019. Visual artists can make work which illuminates complex and often hidden ecological relationships – in this case, literally hidden underground. Join us for the opening of this exhibit for First Friday on June 3 from 6:00pm-8:00pm.



“I collaborate with ecologists at the Natural Resources Institute Finland to explore peatland – a rare type of ecosystem where Sphagnum moss slowly decomposes and creates an anaerobic, water-logged desert where only it can survive and thrive. In this way, the plant is a plumber, and an engineer, similar to us! Many of the works in this show explore the physiology of Sphagnum – how cells can expand to hold 20 times their weight in water, how the plants weave together to form a mat, and sometimes create an artificial water table. I piece together hand-made paper from plants at our study site, digitally altered photos of the site, and laser cuts from microscope images of Sphagnum, to create not-quite-flat paintings I call “peat quilts”.

Peatland is a valuable carbon sink and climate data preserver. It’s also a source of local fuel and jobs for Finnish people. However, peatland can’t be grown fast enough or regenerated after extraction – so we are left with a problem of how to deal with these altered, or “novel”, ecosystems. I hope this close look at a faraway ecosystem we have forever altered can provide some insight on how we can deal with post-human landscapes closer to home. Like a quilt, all our ecological systems are connected.” – Anne Yoncha



Anne Yoncha (US) is Assistant Professor of Art at East Central University in Ada, Oklahoma. Born and raised in Wilmington, Delaware, she earned her MFA at the University of Montana and recently completed a Fulbright fellowship at the Natural Resources Institute Finland, working with restorationists to make collaborative art-science work about former peat extraction sites outside Oulu. Her practice combines digital sensing technology, such as bio-data sonification, and analog, traditional processes including painting with ink she makes from locally-sourced plant matter. Her ongoing research with the HAB (High Altitude Bioprospecting) working group began in Fall 2019 at Field_Notes, a residency of Finland’s Bio Art Society at Kilpisjärvi Biological Station in subarctic Lapland, where she worked with artists, biologists, and programmers to attempt to detect high-altitude microbes using a heli-kite. Tree Talk, her temporary site-specific installation sonifying invisible processes within a stand of Ponderosa pines, was selected as the 2018 Emerging Artist project at Blackfoot Pathways Sculpture in the Wild in Lincoln, Montana. She has also been awarded residencies at Cedar Point Biological Station in Ogallala, Nebraska, and Flathead Lake Biological Station in Polson, Montana. Her work has been shown nationally and internationally, notably at the CICA Museum in South Korea, Finland’s Art Ii Biennial, the Budapest Environmental Project, and Codex Foundation’s international artistic exploration “Extraction: Art on the Edge of Abyss”. Outside the studio she can often be found doing another kind of environmental “research” via bicycle.

Live music will be provided by Harris Creekers out of Hampton, VA. 

First Friday is on June 3 from 6:00pm-8:00pm. This event is free and open to the public. Beer and wine will be available for purchase.


Arts on Main
6580 Main Street
Gloucester, VA 23061
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