Inorganic Recipes from Artist Charles A. Gick


Don’t miss this extraordinary exhibition about ordinary things, like dirt and spoons. Here is why…

This local studio to gallery recipe grows out of a Catholic farming family in Indiana. Artist and inorganic chef, Charles Gick, has been perfecting the cracked earth recipe since his childhood on the farm, drawing with a stick on summer mud. The exhibition is a culmination of his first tastes of meditative marking, multi-medium expression and elemental reverie. His work is as primal as the first cave etchings and as contemplative as the black paintings in Rothko Chapel. Cracked earth, both atmospheric and sculptural, becomes the ground for offerings and incomplete messages that either hover above or sit unanchored. On the slabs of cracked mud we taste the farm in the collective labor that stretches between the trucks of earth, the mixing of wet mud, the drying until cracked. Through this strange and shared effort of working the earth Gick cultivates a meditative space. The broken earth’s hunger for the clouds reminds us of a simple farming truth: blooming requires others. Gick distills the bittersweet taste of this farming truth by framing raw, earthworm etched, air-dried, messy dirt with intentional clean clarity, like all sophisticated farm-to-table dishes that celebrate the ingredients. His skill as an inorganic chef finds full expression in his ability to balance the raw and the refined. Not only is he able to balance sorrow and delight, longing and union, vulgar and elegant, he is also able to offer these tastes in multiple mediums and forms. His work includes performance, painting, sculpture, photography, design and video, so people with diverse aesthetic palates can find something to savor. The slabs of cracked earth become meditative totems, prayers for clouds. It materializes, an ethereal longing for the other. Enjoy these recipes for cracked earth, empty… and full… and taste your own muddy and cloudy longings.


Makes 2 (16’X16’ Slabs)

  • Local dirt 10 tons
  • Water 850 gallons


  • 1 Truck with a hydraulic lift bed to transport, deliver, and dump dirt
  • 3-5 Human beings to mix and transport the mud
  • 1 spade and 1 shovel to scoop dirt from dirt pile and place into buckets
  • 1 – 3’x3’ wire sifter to shift out dirt clods
  • Wheelbarrow to transport dirt to fill the buckets
  • 3 electric drills with dry wall mixing blades to mix the dirt and water
  • 25 – 5 gallon buckets to mix and hold the mud
  • A large cart on casters to transport the buckets of mud
  • 1 floor scraper to clean the floor of splattered mud
  • 2 commercial floor drying fans (additional small fans can be used as needed) to help expedite the drying and cracking process
  • 16 sheets of 4’ x 8’ – 5/8” plywood
  • 24 – 8’, 2”x6” pine
  • 8 – 16’, 2”x6” pine
  • 150 linear feet of pine screen bead board
  • 1 miter saw
  • 1 cross saw
  • 1 coping saw
  • 1 miter box
  • 150 – 7/8” metal brads to secure the screen bead board to edges of platform
  • 40 – 3” wood screws to secure the outside corners and end pieces of platform
  • 400 – 1-1/4” or longer wood screws to secure plywood to platform
  • 4 tubes of silicone calking and 1 calk gun to seal seams of plywood
  • 2 – 3 gallons of paint to paint the surface of the platform
  • Paint roller and paint tray
  • Wet/dry vacuum and a mop and bucket and broom to clean dust and water off of the gallery floor
  • 1 – 10’ x 100’ 6mil black poly sheeting to protect the gallery floor from moisture from pouring mud onto platforms
  • 4 – 16’, 1”x6” pine boards for the outer walls of mud mold
  • 2 – 8’, x 1”x6” pine boards to build a dam while pouring mud


  1. Build platform: First lay down a 20’X20” square of heavy plastic to protect gallery floor from the mud and water. It is imperative to be a considerate guest artist. Build platform, a 14’X14’ base with evenly spaced joists that can bear the weight of mud. Screw the 16’X16’ plywood top to cantilever over the base. Be sure to make the seams minimal. Each seam is an invitation for a water leak. Apply chalking over each seam in a futile nature-defying attempt at waterproofing.

Next add the 1” X 6” wood strip around the platform perimeter creating a frame to hug and constrict the mud. Apply black Gorilla Tape at the seam to prevent the escape of water to the floor. Now the platform is ready to receive the mixed wet mud.

  1. Mix mud: Ask politely for the dirt to be delivered and dumped outside. Shovel or spade scoopfuls of mud to be sifted and shaken. Much like baking a satiny smooth cake the sifting allows the removal of big clumps. If banana bread like texture is desired, leave dirt un-sifted. Note the difference in the two cracked earth slabs: The one holding the cloud dome is less sifted and has more texture while the slab under the earth and sky coat has less.

Using a wheelbarrow, transport dirt to the interior space closer to a water source. This transfer may also offer relief from hot Indiana summer days. Scoop dirt into 25 – 5 gallon buckets. Using a drill, mix 2 to 3 gallons of water to each bucket until a thick cake batter state is achieved. Relying on a table with castors and the energy of 3 people, push 25 buckets close to the platform in the gallery. Walk up onto platform as needed. Construct a sidewalk concrete pour-like dam that will permit a slow and controlled pour. Each dammed section will be limited by the stretch of your body. Pour mud until a thickness of 5” is reached. Repeat until the full 16’X16’ square pan is filled.

  1. Let dry: Do not be alarmed when water rises to top. The rising water allows for a brownie like crusty surface (a ¼ inch of water floating on top is fine). If a heavy spot of water develops use wet-dry vacuum to pull the water away without touching the surface.

Use commercial fans to hasten the drying process. Rotate fans around every couple days. Be sure to face fans in the same single direction so that air travels across the surface, like wind over the landscape. Do not create tornado conditions. Allow for 2 weeks of drying time.

For vulnerable and soft areas, mix thicker mud to make a stronger mold. Also note that the gallery will become humid as water escapes into the air, creating an invisible domesticated cloud.

The poured wet mud of 5 inches will shrink down to 3 inches. The mud will become hard enough to walk across and hang up watches or place a cloud dome. Limit walking to protect brownie-like crust. Once mud pulls away from the platform wall about a ¼ to ½ inch, lift the 1”X6” form away without hurting or pulling the slab. Now the cracked earth is ready, hovering over the platform, broken and waiting to receive.

Serve the Slabs of Cracked Earth with:

The Earth and Sky Coat

The Cloud Dome

Charles A. Gick’s Recipe for Empty

  1. Locate 20 square feet of wall space
  2. 241 unfilled teaspoons will make 2-1/2 pints of absence. Gallons of restless meditations can gently perch on each cusp. Breathe deeply to give life to each possibility.
  3. Form a 5’ diameter circle filled with 8 concentric rings of emptiness

Charles A. Gick’s Recipe for Full

  1. Locate 20 square feet of wall space
  2. 241 teaspoons of sifted dirt will make 2-1/2 pints of presence

Find a willing gallery director, not afraid of heights or dirt, to stand on a lift, hold cup under each spoon, sprinkle dirt over each until a tiny mountain forms within each cradle, let the dirt granules comfortably settle. Do not apply wind to the fragile dry earth. Hold your breath. The teaspoons cannot hold anymore.

  1. Form a 5’ diameter circle filled with 8 concentric rings of fullness

‘My fathers’ globe knocks on its nave and sings.’
‘This that we tread was, too, your fathers’ land.’
‘But this we tread bears the angelic gangs
Sweet are their fathered faces in their wings.’
‘These are but dreaming men. Breathe, and they fade.’

Excerpt from I fellowed sleep by Dylan Thomas

For recipes and tastes like, how to cage a cloud, how to sew an earth & sky coat and more, visit Charles A. Gick’s Dirt & Flowers: and other things we eat and breathe… at Wabash College.

Recipe developed by Charles A. Gick and written by the Hungryphilosopher

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