Cargoland: Artist Cathy Opie on her 10-day cargo ship ride

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Cathy Opie in her studio

Artist Cathy Opie in her studio

I didn’t go to artist Cathy Opie’s house explicitly to see the bunnies, but before I got to talk to her about what did lure me over to West Adams, I got a tour of this extension of her existence. Her partner, Julie Burleigh, has, over the last five years, converted an eyesore abandoned lot down the block from their house into a community garden featuring 35 neighbor-tended plots.

Fertilizer creators

Birds chirped at this oasis, rich with blooms of kale and broccoli and other lush vegetables. The bunnies generate the perfect fertilizer for the plots, Burleigh explained of this all-organic venture.

The garden is being officially dedicated tomorrow and named for the patron who made the purchase of the land possible (through the LA Neighborhood Land Trust), Erika Glazer. Burleigh’s worked these past years to build the garden with the help of the LA Community Garden Council.

Urban farmer Julie Burleigh
Urban farmer Julie Burleigh

It seemed a fitting beginning to the conversation I’d come to have with Opie about her exhibition that’s up at the Long Beach Museum of Art for just another week.

Twelve Miles to the Horizon documents her 10-day ride aboard a cargo ship, from Korea to Long Beach. Just her, the crew, and 5,000 containers of stuff of indeterminate nature.

The art that inspired me to call on Opie

Traveling the waters with no land in sight and only the sunrise and sunset to guide your sense of time, alongside all that man-made matter, well, it puts your own consumption patterns into perspective. Especially when you live as Opie does with urban farmer Burleigh, in the midst of this sustainable paradise.  (They have chickens and honeybees, too.)

I talked with Opie about her cargo experience. She said it lead her to ask: “How can I make a better footprint for myself?  But, you know, I’m a consumer and I do like to shop,” she laughed. At least Opie has managed to transform the experience of consuming into beautiful images of natural wonder.

Note: This was originally published on March 15, 2013  You can see a photo gallery of Opie’s work from the ship here.