Spencer Museum of Art The University of Kansas

Welcome to the Spencer Collection

Soil Thresholds (various locations)
  • Claire Pentecost
    born 1956
    born: Baltimore, Maryland, United States
  • Soil Thresholds (various locations), 2017
  • Where object was made: United States
  • soil chromatography
  • Object Diameter: each 12.5 cm
  • Courtesy of the artist
  • Not on display
  • EL2017.101.23-26
  • Loan: Not in the Spencer's collection
Label Text

Exhibition Label:
"Terra Anima", 19-Sep-2017
Chromatography refers to a variety of laboratory techniques for physically separating the parts of a complex mixture. As part of her ongoing artistic work appreciating soil, Pentecost employs a particular method of soil chromatography advanced by Ehrenfried Pfeiffer in the mid 20th century. As a pioneer of biodynamic agriculture, Pfeiffer used paper filter chromatography to produce qualitative visual information about a given soil. The resulting chromatograms are something like portraits, debatably closer to art than to science. Similar to a fingerprint, they document the unique nature of various soils. No two soils will deliver an identical image, although the particular variations may be subtle.
Pentecost has collected soil samples for different projects over the years. Many of the soils pictured in this exhibition were collected as part of an exploration of the Wisconsin Driftless region, a terrain that escaped glaciation in the last glacial period and is noted for its deeply carved river valleys.