scents of soil, sense of home

by Eleonora Edreva & Catherine Peshek  

Desert, Bosque, Urban, and Foothills soils; Creosote, Willow, Rosemary, and Juniper hydrosols

Inspired by the seasonality of the high desert, including high intensity winds and monsoons, our work seeks to embody the sensory aspects of experiencing the landscapes of Albuquerque, New Mexico. During a rain event, the aroma of water interacting with the terrestrial environment is encapsulating and can even be soothing. It reminds us that the desert is alive.

The experience of scent during a rain event is driven by volatility. When water reaches the soil surface, chemicals in the soil and vegetation become released as gases, which can then enter the atmosphere for us to experience. The interaction between the atmosphere and ground thus drives this process.

Generally, soil scientists describe soil development through the CLORPT model: CLimate, Organisms, Relief, Parent material, and Time. Each of these aspects combined makes soils unique, and often highly localized. In this work, we have created sculptures from two separate soils, one from the desert on the east side of the city and the other from the Bosque. The visual and olfactory differences in soil type showcase their unique connections to the evolving landscape of the Rio Grande Rift here in Albuquerque.

To create the sensory experience of monsoonal precipitation, we have distilled creosote and willow hydrosols. Viewers can spray each one into its corresponding soil sculpture, activating the combined effects of soil, water, and vegetation that drives our instinctual recognition of the surrounding desert environment when a rain event occurs. By choosing juxtaposing soil environments, we give the viewer a sampling of the many unique microclimates around us, inviting them to appreciate each one in its uniqueness as well as how they come together to create our sense of sensory connection to our high desert home.