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Contemporary Botanical Artists

Linda Stillman uses actual plants as pigment to create her colorful drawings and paintings, often plants from a specific garden or location. The identification of the plants becomes a part of the title and the artwork itself.

Taryn Simon: 
In Paperwork and the Will of Capital, Simon examines accords, treaties, and decrees drafted to influence systems of governance and economics, from nuclear armament to oil deals and diamond trading. All involve the countries present at the 1944 United Nations Monetary and Financial Conference in Bretton Woods, New Hampshire, which addressed the globalization of economics after World War II, leading to the establishment of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank. In images of the signings of these documents, powerful men flank floral centerpieces designed to underscore the importance of the parties present. Simon’s photographs of the recreated centerpieces from these signings, together with their stories, underscore how the stagecraft of political and economic power is created, performed, marketed, and maintained.

Each of Simon’s recreations of these floral arrangements represents an “impossible bouquet”—a concept that emerged in Dutch still-life painting parallel to the country’s seventeenth-century economic boom, which ushered in the development of modern capitalism. Then, the impossible bouquet was an artificial fantasy of flowers that could never bloom naturally in the same season and geographic location. Now the fantasy is made possible—both in the original signings and in Simon’s photographs—by the global consumer market.

For the recreations, Simon worked with a botanist and from archival records to identify all the flowers. She imported more than 4000 specimens from the world’s largest flower auction in Aalsmeer, Netherlands, where 20 million flowers arrive and depart daily, bound for international retail destinations. She remade the floral arrangements from each signing, then photographed them against striking bicolored fields relating to the foregrounds and backgrounds in the historical images, pairing each arrangement with a description of the pertinent accord. For the sculptures, selected specimens from the 36 arrangements were dried, pressed, and sewn to archival herbarium paper; a complete set of the 36 botanical collages was then placed in each of the 12 concrete presses, along with the same number of photographs and narrative texts—sealed together in a race against time.


– from the press release for Paperwork and the Will of Capital, at Gagosian in NY

Jenny Yurshansky:  Blacklisted: A Planted Allegory (Herbarium)

Description: This herbarium was made by studying the California Invasive Species Advisory Council’s living list of invasive plant species.  The Claremont Colleges and their affiliated institutions were the site of this collection. Pitzer College Art Galleries invited me to be an Artist-in-Residence during Summer 2014. During that period I hunted for, located, identified, and collected the invasive plants that I found growing on the site. Out of CISAC’s 600 listed alien-invasive plants, I found 133 which are now indexed in this collection; a group that is simultaneously highly local and totally foreign. The original pressings of the plants have been recreated as hand-cut silhouette portraits. These cutouts function as caricatures of each plant’s identifying characteristics. Along with each silhouette, is a description of the plant’s Latin and vernacular names, their arrival date in California and their place of origin. It is no accident that the dates of arrival reflect the eras of manifest destiny, periods of increasingly multi-ethnic immigration and global shipping trade; humans are the primary introduction vectors. Many of these plants are now thought to be culturally Californian because of their common place in cuisine, flower beds, kitchen gardens, and the overwhelmingly human shaped landscape.

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