Although I consider all of my work to relate to the condition of the environment and our relationship to it, in 2016 I was invited to create work for Climate Action Brookline during their Brookline Climate Week . The following is the two dimensional work I displayed in downtown Brookline, MA.

What Once Was, Could Be

An intimate knowledge of where food comes from was once part of everyone’s life. Here, peasants picking up the last grains of wheat after a harvest, from Jean-Francois Millet’s 1857 painting Gleaners, are superimposed on Brookline’s Coolidge Corners Greenline. Like pavement, plastic that our food now arrives in, distances us even further from our planet. Remembering the real source of our nourishment is crucial to understanding why we must care for the Earth now. 

What Once Was Could Be II

Jean-François Millet’s (French,1814-1875) Potato Planters have been transported to Brookline’s Coolidge Corner and paired with Brookline Poet Laureate Judith Steinbergh’s poem THE ORIGINs of CABBAGE.  Each reminds us of the earthen source of the essentials of life, and why defending our planet means protecting ourselves.




I drove over to Buzzels for some fresh corn and there

was a cabbage so big and healthy looking, I had to buy it,

75¢ and it weighed probably six pounds easy. I don't

even like cabbage but this one made you want to like it,

pale green and shiny like someone had just polished it,

and veins like on the forearm of a construction worker,

it seemed like just one leaf, the outer one, had built

a whole town with no help, the outer edge of this outer

leaf curled over in a sort of wide open grin and peeling

that leaf back, another with its own creeks, tributaries

and deltas, I swear the whole damn Mississippi lives in

this next leaf, and the next one, just slightly paler,

and the next one a bit more tender and ruffled a little

like a grown woman in gowns and so on, the whole thing

packed and dense, couldn't get more food than this into

a ball, it feels good just to hold it under your arm.

So I bring this cabbage home and admire it for a while,

showing it off to friends as if I'd given birth to it,

and it does seem unlikely that a thing like a cabbage

could just grow out of the ground rather than condensing

say, into a cool green planet in orbit around the sun.


Judith Steinbergh

Teacher and Brookline Poet Laureate, 2012-2015