Substantive caption: This is a reworked image of a business card for Juan Zárate’s gardening maintenance company, J&J Landscaping. J&J Landscaping operated out of his Santa Ana home for over twenty-five years. It was one of the hundreds of formal and informal gardening companies throughout Orange County. I worked for the company as a youth and managed it throughout my undergraduate and graduate work.
The card consists of the company name, business details, and services offered. I have replaced an image of a chainsaw, which originally complemented the ficus tree on the left of the card, with the chemical compound for glyphosate– the active ingredient in Roundup weed killer. Throughout his decades-long work as a residential gardener, Zárate used Roundup to provide the services his employers demanded and to make his business more efficient. From carrying it on his back over his work clothes, to operating it without protective gloves or mask, Roundup was a common tool– a kind of finishing touch for the gardens he cared for.
Recent legal cases against the Monsanto Corporation have found them liable for defendants’ development of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma caused by prolonged use of Roundup. Though several class-action and individual lawsuits are still pending, decisions have so far highlighted Monsanto’s failure to adequately explain and advertise the dangers of glyphosate. Those at highest risk of developing cancer from Roundup have been found to be farm workers, gardeners, and groundskeepers, as they have regular contact with the compound. Visualizing toxicity through a business card from Juan Zárate’s gardening company helps reveal how toxics are not only close to the bodies and worlds of gardeners but also those of their employers and employees.
Design Statement: This image conveys how toxicity is present in gardening maintenance economies in Southern California. It reveals how gardens and plant-life, meant to invoke introspection, beauty, and solace, are imbricated with uneven exposure to forms of toxicity for racialized workers.
Zárate, Salvador. 2019. “Created Image: Landscape Maintenance.” In Toxic Softscapes, created by Salvador Zárate. In Visualizing Toxic Subjects Digital Exhibit, curated by James Adams and Kim Fortun. The Center for Ethnography.