Earth Eats: Real Food, Green Living

Gretchen Sigmund Marks: Art Inspired By Chicken Farming

After she feeds her chickens, Gretchen Sigmund Marks uses the burlap feed sacks to make collages.

Gretchen Sigmund Marks egg sack art

Photo: Sarah Kaiser/WFIU

Marks' collages hang on the walls in FARM Restaurant in Bloomington, Indiana. Chef Daniel Orr is Marks' longtime friend from his time growing up in Columbus, Indiana.

Compared to her 50 years as a mixed-media artist, Gretchen Sigmund Marks is relatively new to the egg business. As her chicken population has grown, she’s found that they are inspiring her artistically.

Farm Fresh

She has some 50 chickens on her Sunrise Egg Farm between Nashville and Columbus, Indiana, and she admits to selecting her chickens based on the beauty of their feathers and the color of eggs they lay.

But, she also gets excited about the contents of the eggs.

She raves about the difference in flavor of the eggs her hens lays versus eggs one purchases from the grocery store. “It’s unbelievable. The yolks are a deep orange, and they just sit up and look at you. There’s nothing like a fresh farm egg!”

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

After feeding her chickens, Marks uses the big burlap feed sacks as the base for her collages. “When I buy chicken feed, I look at the sack more than I do what’s inside because I know I can do something fun with it.”

She had been throwing away the sacks until one day it dawned on her to use them to make collages. She then started seriously gathering different brands of feed sacks to use in her art. The finished collages feature photos of her chickens, blue/green/brown/white eggshells and the various colored and patterned chicken feathers.

The 75-year-old credits making scrapbooks with her sister on rainy days back when they were kids for her interest in mixed-media art.

“I love finding found things and incorporating them, using them in a different way. That’s what I get my kicks from.”

Annie Corrigan

Annie Corrigan is a producer and announcer for WFIU. In addition to serving as the local voice for NPR's Morning Edition, she produces WFIU's weekly sustainable food program Earth Eats. She earned degrees in oboe performance from Indiana University and Bowling Green State University.

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