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Gaia and Man

Who Am I? Exhibition

Published onAug 24, 2020
Gaia and Man

Gaia and Man, 2006
Marilyn Annin (American, b. 1938)
Fabric, wire, and can-tabs
Gift of the artist. In the permanent collection, Brunnier Art Museum, University Museums, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa.

Artist’s Interpretation

Man woke up and saw Trees walking. Fox, Snake and Hare were walking too for the land was uncertain. Wind tore at man and it was hot. Gaia saw Man and was wary.

Man, born of the earth, notices the goddess Gaia, Mother Earth, is busy multi-tasking. She is dealing with turbulence from the sky, Winter has wandered off and her kingdom is on the move to better lands. She is waiting to have a dialogue with Man whom she hopes will be responsive to her concerns.

These rigid garments, Man and Gaia, represent the main actors in the global warming drama. Man, dressed in his pin striped overalls is neither good nor evil but he must do more than say his lines to be a hero. Gaia, who created order out of chaos, is waiting to respond. Let’s hope Man can influence the last act. If Gaia completes the story Man might not like the ending.

Marilyn Annin artist statement from Paradise Lost: Climate Change in the North Woods, group exhibition at University of Wisconsin – Madison in 2007



A monologue in response to Marilyn Annin’s Gaia and Man
by Amanda Petefish-Schrag
Assistant Professor, Theater


(THE WOMAN, a refugee, enters carrying a suitcase. She sets the suitcase down.  She opens it.  It is filled with rotting apples. She picks one up and examines it. She sits on the suitcase.  She speaks - )

Apple scab, powdery mildew, codling moths, apple maggots, fire blight, leaf blight, black rot, crown rot, phytophthora rot, nectria canker, rust, aphids, caterpillars, green fruitworms, narrow leaf, wilt, sunburn, sunscald, tufted apple budmoths, apple drop, green mottle, spider mites, Japanese beetles, root-knot nematodes, appletree borers, cork spot, Frog Eye leaf spot, sooty blotch.

Snakes are not on the list.

Go ahead.

Talk to your local extension agent or farm bureau;  

Tell them you’re cultivating apple trees.  

They'll send you pamphlets and booklets and webpages and phone numbers,

full of helpful hints about tending your orchard.

But not one of them will mention snakes. 

That's the brilliance of it all.

You're out looking for apple maggots

So you completely miss the serpent. 


I don't blame the snake.  

People wonder.

I wish I’d known to be more careful, though.

It wasn't a very nice surprise. 

Neither are apple maggots, I guess;

But snakes are more dangerous.   

At least that's been my experience.  

Of course the story works better with the snake. 

Metaphors and symbolism aside,

If the story involved an apple maggot encouraging some lady

to pick an apple and KNOW

the mystery of life and death -

Well . . .

But a snake,

a snake is powerful.  

When a snake starts talking

she better take notice.   

People still blame her, of course.  

Everyone KNOWS

you shouldn't go into an orchard alone.

After the “incident”,

He never stopped trying to root out snakes.

He assumed they were everywhere.  

In every crevice of the mountain,

between each shoot in the newly sprung plains,

tangled in branches of mighty trees.

So he slashed, 

And scorched,

And slayed.

Believing the snake was true,

And the story was his to write.

He assumed I was aiding and abetting. 

Hiding snakes in the cellar or something. 

As if I enjoyed being scared. 

As if I was the one who was tempted.

And as every night gave way to mourning,

I learned,

Sometimes there’s no choice but to leave the orchard.

If someone gave me the choice between fire blight and the snake,

I don't know which I'd choose. 

You might assume I’d say fire blight,

but if you’ve ever had to cure fire blight,

you’d think twice. 

So maybe still the snake.  

(THE WOMAN takes a bite of the rotting apple and quietly chews.)


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