Sip. Do Not Gulp. at the De Saisset Museum

Sip. Do Not Gulp.
Participatory installation: video, mural, objects.

January 17 – March 16, 2014
De Saisset Museum
Santa Clara University
500 El Camino Real, Santa Clara, CA 95050

Link to the exhibition on the de Saisset website.

“Sip. Do not Gulp.” is shown in conjunction with  A Serving of Shapes: An Exploration in 3D Printing  by artist Corinne Takara.


When I was commissioned by the de Saisset Museum to create a mural about the history of food and water in the Santa Clara Valley, I immediately thought about the great amount of water it takes to grow food and what that means in a region which experiences droughts and water scarcity. I wanted to tell people that although we enjoy great food in the region, growing food comes with a very large, mostly invisible, “water-tag”, and we may have a very hard time in the near future responding to the growing demand of a growing population. Due to the drought we are going through in California, lots of farmers are facing drastic decisions concerning their crops.

I thought about making a video that would be integrated in the mural.
I met with four amazing people: Andrea – culinary artist – at Montalvo Arts Center in Saratoga; with Jay Famiglietti – Professor of Earth System Science and Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of California, Irvine – in San Francisco on the occasion of the AGU conference, the largest worldwide conference in geophysical sciences; with Ann Marie Sayers – Ohlone Storyteller and Tribal Chair of Indian Canyon – in Indian Canyon, south of Hollister, where she lives surrounded by a wonderful nature; and with Ed Maurer – Associate Professor, Civil Engineering – in Santa Clara University, where he works and where the De Saisset Museum is located.

When I visited the gallery at the museum, despite the fact that there was not much time to put everything together, I imagined taking over the whole space with the mural. It represents 1000 sq.ft. On the left the Ohlone period is represented. Facing the entrance the mural is about the mission/ rancho era, and on the right wall it is the present, with Silicon Valley.

In the middle a “rug” made of acorn” represents one of the most important food for  the Ohlone People, the first to have lived in the region. I hand-picked those acorns across Santa Clara Valley, from Palo Alto to Pinnacles National Park, via Sunnyvale and Indian Canyon. I brought bags and bags of acorns to the museum where they were stored and then cooked to sterilize them.

I traced the whole mural in one day and then, with an amazing organization from the museum and a group of dedicated students who helped me paint, the mural was finished in a few days.

The mural welcomes the participation of the visitors, who are invited to express their ideas about the role played by water from growing food to eat it, in our region, in a time of intense water use, rapid urban growth and droughts. Markers are at their disposition to draw, share a thought, a quote, a statistic on a bright blue paper plate. They can then tape the paper plate anywhere on the mural.

Sip. Do Not Gulp. by Lindsey Kouvaris, curator of the exhibition

“Sip. Do Not Gulp.” examines the interconnectedness of food and water throughout Santa Clara Valley’s long history. Created by Bay Area artist Michele Guieu, the site-specific installation calls attention to the shifting patterns and practices of water usage in the Valley. Once an abundant resource, agricultural development, population increase, and urban sprawl have placed stress on fresh water availability. Comprised of a painted mural, a documentary video, and a symbolic acorn “rug,” Guieu highlights the preciousness of water as a local resource and draws salient connections to food production in this region: if there is no water, there is no food.

Designed specifically for the de Saisset Museum, Guieu’s painted mural extends across three walls, looking at four distinct periods in local history: the Native Ohlone, the Mission era, the Rancho period, and present day Silicon Valley. The mural traces the transformation of Santa Clara Valley from a land rich with water and natural resources to a space defined by technology and struggling to meet water demand.

A documentary video, projected on the wall in the center of the mural, brings together four distinct voices to address water concerns from a range of perspectives: Andrea Blum, chef and writer; James Famiglietti; Professor of Earth System Science and Civil and Environmental Engineering at University of California, Irvine; Edward Mauer, Associate Professor, Civil Engineering at Santa Clara University; Ann Marie Sayers, Ohlone Storyteller and Tribal Chair of Indian Canyon.

In the center of the room lies a rug formed of acorns locally hand-picked from different species of oaks. Acorns were an essential food source for the Ohlone. In the middle of the rug a small table is set with a pitcher of water—a reminder that the most important thing on the menu is water. Water is a necessity for farming, cooking, and irrigating—our food supply depends on it.

To encourage dialogue about our growing water concerns, “Sip. Do Not Gulp.” is designed to be interactive. Museum visitors are invited to share stories, commentary, and reflections on the role of water in our lives by posting comments directly onto the surface of the mural. With time, the image created by Guieu will become a forum for discussion—a place where the community can exchange ideas, express concerns, and offer solutions.”


A chef, two scientists and an Ohlone storyteller give their perspectives on the connection between food and water, in the context of the severe drought California is going through at this time.
This video is part of that installation “Sip. Do Not Gulp.” at the de Saisset Museum in Santa Clara, California.

– Andrea Blum, culinary artist – in Residence at Montalvo Arts Center in Saratoga
– Jay Famiglietti, Professor of Earth System Science and Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of California, Irvine
– Ed Maurer, Associate Professor, Civil Engineering – in Santa Clara University
– Ann Marie Sayers, Ohlone Storyteller and Tribal Chair of Indian Canyon

PANEL DISCUSSION: Sip. Do Not Gulp. / Lush Lawns and Delicious Dinner: How California’s Habits are about to change.
Wednesday, February 26, 7 p.m, de Saisset Museum, Santa Clara, CA.

At a moment when California’s water situation is of heightened concern, and the interconnectedness of food and water is at the center of the discussion, four experts come together to share their thoughts on the State’s condition. Jackie Davison, Outreach Coordinator in the Environmental Services Department at the Water Pollution Control Plant in Sunnyvale; Masie Ganzler, Vice President of Strategic Initiatives at Bon Appetit Management Company; Ed Maurer, Associate Professor, Civil Engineering at Santa Clara University; and Joe Morris, Morris Grassfed Beef discuss the impact California’s water shortage has on a personal and local level, and offer their perspectives on what the State’s future might hold. Programmed in conjunction with Sip. Do Not Gulp., on view through March 16, this program speaks to artist Michele Guieu’s commitment to engaging the community through her work.