By now, you’ve surely seen Jamie Bourgeois’ golden brown moss painting winding across the facade of Judge Realty’s building on Abercorn Street. An impressionistic exercise in pleurocarp moss, the ‘Mossterpiece’ is as much a celebration of nature’s harmony as it is a call to action.
The storefront of a successful real estate company may seem an odd place for an installation about the equalizing power of nature, but Judge Realty has a long history of supporting sustainability as well as public art. Lori Judge’s past partnerships include work with Matt Hebermehl of SeeSAW and Katherine Sandoz – two of the biggest names in Savannah’s public art game. She has hosted two separate installations in almost as many years (Sandoz’s Flower Power recycled bags and Kedgar Volta’s Urban Imposition) and once helped secure locations for the Before I Die project. As the city’s interest in public art initiatives grows, Judge recognizes her position as a role model for other local businesses: “I hope to pass the baton,” she told SAI. “I’ve created a pedestal to say ‘See? Look how easy. You could do it too!’, so I’m hoping that’s what happens.”
Bourgeois sees the Mossterpiece as an opportunity to connect with the community as well. The installation (which was created by fixing handfuls of moss to the wall with a “glue” of fertilizer and yogurt) has attracted a lot of sidewalk attention. “People are curious and they’ll ask me about [the piece] and it starts a whole conversation. People start talking about what they do, what their relationship to moss and plants is… People are happy talking to other people and it gets [them] excited about public art and hopefully gets them talking to their government and letting them know they want to see more of it. It also gets people to say ‘I appreciate my environment, I appreciate what the earth does for me.'”
As people pass by, they reach out and graze their fingertips against Bourgeois’ mossy fern fronds. But she isn’t concerned with damage to the piece – in fact, just the opposite. “I’ve been thinking the whole time I’ve been working about how humans have invented the concept of permanence. It’s not a real thing. Everything changes, everything degrades. It’s been interesting for me to meditate on this – on permanence, impermanence, growth and community,” she says.
The growth-degeneration cycle is the core of sustainability, after all, and that’s the other side of the Mossterpiece project anyway. Bourgeois’ very canvas is a sustainable one: just in time for their 10th anniversary this year, Judge Realty fully converted over to solar power.
All that direct sunlight means the Mossterpiece won’t last long, but it is guaranteed to receive maintenance until Judge’s permit runs out at the end of June. For her part, Bourgeois is pleased by the finite nature of the project. “The thing about death is that things grow out of it. Dead things fertilize the ground; it’s all a cycle. The Mossterpiece will go away, but it’s also a spark for other businesses and companies to say, ‘Hey. I want this on my property.’ It’s a stepping stone.”
The Mossterpiece was made possible through a partnership between Judge Realty and Art Rise Savannah. To support Art Rise’s mission for further public art endeavors in Savannah, click here.