When we think of plastic we think cheap, glass we think fragile, and feathers we think soft. When dirt, metal, and wood come to artist Patricia E. Rangel’s mind, she thinks of those things in terms of something different. She thinks of agriculture. She thinks of the dirt/soil that is used again, and again to for crops. She thinks of metal wire, and wood made to create fences, that keep out animals, and separate crops. These things are tough, and hard. And in turn they are used by tough, and hard people.
Rangel told me that manipulating the dirt, metal, and wood took a lot of time and effort. She describes the process as labor extensive and repetitive, she would take the dirt, and mix it with water to let dry, and then stack. This process of mixing and putting together was the repetitive part. Meanwhile, when we got to the topic of how she go the dirt, she responded that the dirt came from a variety of places, some important and others unimportant. For example sometimes she just found dirt while driving on the road through an agricultural area. And another batch of dirt came from the area where the hospital she was born in was torn down.
I wonder if it is by some strange coincidence that the way in which Rangel thought about dirt, was more or less how she interacted with it. Much like she believed dirt/wood/metal were involved in repetition/strength/work, when she worked on it she felt all those qualities. In creating her art she repetitively made the sculptures, working hard to make them. When they were finished Rangel told me that despite being made of sand they were very tough and durable. Yet I like to remember the final part of our conversation were see says that she would destroy her creations with a sledgehammer.