The artist Tommy Wilson wants to seed-bomb every state in the nation.
Tommy Wilson talks a lot about mortars and hand grenades. “I want to launch a bomb in every state!” declares the Memphis artist. This statement would be alarming if not for the content of Wilson’s artillery: biodegradable balloons filled with wildflower seeds, plant-based paint, flour, and sorghum, which the decidedly peaceful bombardier describes as “quite aesthetically pleasing,” and excellent food for birds and rodents.
It’s all part of Wilson’s new Bomb the Blight project. Launched last week in Memphis, Bomb the Blight is a cross between public art and madcap ecology in which the artist fires paint-studded seed-bombs into neglected lots. On landing, the bombs produce colorful splatters of paint; spread across an area of several acres, “they build up into an abstract painting of sorts,” according to Wilson. The project gets its artistic second wind later, when these bright splotches bloom into a mix of plants picked for their appeal to bees, birds—and humans. “Considering that the materials used by the first artists were derived from plants, I think it is quite fitting to consider flowers to be my final medium” he says.
The weapon itself was Wilson’s inspiration: “I came up with the idea when I went to a fall festival and saw a ‘pumpkin chucker.’ I read about seed-bombs and decided to try and blend the two.” (The air cannon he uses is the same you might see firing into the stands at an NBA game—liberated at last from XXXL T-shirt duty.) And he’s expanding into hand grenades for small lots, with the bonus that residents can join the assault. Important as the flowers are, an engaged community seems central to what the artist is after.
Photo by Donna McGlothlan