Born and educated in Ohio, Joe Scanlan has had solo exhibitions at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago and Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions, as well as in commercial galleries in Europe and the United States. He is represented by D’Amelio Terras in New York. Scanlan is an associate professor of sculpture at Yale University.
Pay Dirt invents and manufactures a commercial product and then re-introduces it as a work of art. In this work, Joseph Scanlan designed packaging and applied for a patent for the product. Once the patent was pending, he produced one ton of Pay Dirt, a potting soil made of material generally dumped in the trash, as a kind of first issue prototype. Subsequent production levels were determined by the remaining resources and public reaction to the work.