For the past few years my work has explored the saving of heirloom seeds and how this practice protects biodiversity and contributes to sustainability. This new series of drawings to re-imagine containers that might or could have been used to save, preserve, hold and transport seeds throughout history. I’m interested in both the utilitarian and the imagined container.

Today most people save their seeds in clean, dry and practical containers. But what if seeds were saved in containers made for saving extremely precious and valuable things? What if we saved seeds in treasure boxes usually reserved for jewels or the ashes bones of saints -- the original purpose of a reliquary?

Abundant Bloomsdale Spinach and 17th Century French Container
2014
Colored Pencil on paper
22" x 30"

This seed is a variety being developed by the Organic Seed Alliance for the needs of organic famers and gardeners. I am inspired by the ecological (non gmo) breeding techniques. Imagery for this container was comes a French 17th century container on exhibition at the Louvre, Paris, France.
Rachel Breen Historic Treasure Colored Pencil on paper
Foxtail Millet Seeds with Italian 16th century Reliquaries
2014
Colored Pencil on paper
22" x 30"

The longest history of cultivation among the millets, this heirloom grain has been grown in China since the sixth millennium BC. Foxtail Millet intrigues me because it is often referred to as a primitive grain. Imagery for this container comes from an Italian 16th century Reliquary on exhibition at the Louvre, Paris, France.
Rachel Breen Historic Treasure Colored Pencil on Paper
Cherokee Trail of Tears Bean Seeds
2015
Colored Pencil on Paper
22" x 30"

Cherokee Indians carried this bean seed over the Trail of Tears, when they were forcibly relocated during the infamous winter death march from the Smoky Mountains to Oklahoma (1838-1839), leaving a trail of 4,000 graves. The seeds have been saved continuously ever since and are called Tail of Tears beans. The inspiration for this container comes from a traditional Cherokee design.
Rachel Breen Historic Treasure Colored Pencil on paper
Detail of Cherokee Trail of Tears Bean Seeds
2015
Colored Pencil on paper
22" x 30"

This detail shows a close up of the beans in the pods as they are ready to be eaten or saved.
Rachel Breen Historic Treasure Colored Pencil on paper
Detail of Cherokee Trail of Tears Bean Seeds
2015
Colored Pencil on paper
22" x 30"

This detail shows the part of the map that includes the Great Smokey Mountains where the Trail of Tears began.
Rachel Breen Historic Treasure Colored pencil, ink and soft pastel on paper
Black Aztec Corn with 17th Century French Jewelry Box
2014
Colored pencil, ink and soft pastel on paper
18" x 24"

This heirloom corn was believed to have been grown by the Aztecs 2,000 years ago. Imagery for this container comes from a 17th century French jewelry box on exhibition at the Louvre, Paris, France.
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