There are so many disparate elements in the finished piece, the self-portrait as it is now might be best called “an organic compound.”
I started with my first attempt at a plant mask, which has leaves, spores, seeds, a dried flower and beads, added it to the finished roots piece, added stone bird and ball beads from Mexico using and heavy duty thread, and added sewing around sections of root.
2015 was the second year of the visual arts component of the Fringe Festival in Kansas City.
Union Station beautifully hosted the art displays of the 14 or so participating artists.
I really enjoyed watching the surprise and curiosity of travelers passing by the exhibit, exiting the train station.
While many of the travelers might not have chosen to make a special trip to see the visual arts show, but the majority were genuinely taken with the variety and beauty they saw.
Art and science often cross paths. I recently uncovered a TED talk given by the president of an African country in which she shows how art, science, culture and health are intertwined.
The talk is given by Ameenah Gurib-Fakim, biodiversity scientist and first female president of Mauritius.
Gurib-Fakim says that we don’t realize how valuable our plant resources are, and yet, we keep destroying them.
Plants have a fundamental role to play in the lives of humans: they feed us and they also give us the oxygen we breathe.
After completing the masks of mother and daughters, it seemed fitting to frame them together.
The orange tree root weaves them together; together but separate.
Mother and children were able to start gluing down plant material soon after the quick-dry plaster masks were removed and the petroleum jelly was cleaned off.
The inside of every plant press is full inspiration. The photos in this post will show a small amount of the plant material I’ve collected over the years, including the sourcing info, background data and collection dates for some of the items.
The presses themselves were handcrafted based on the world-wide industry standard botanical press size 12″ x 18″. Most of the plant material was collected to fit in the botanical press standard .
One benefit of having presses that size is that I can buy and use industry standard blotting paper and cardboard.
Some of the presses, which I made to be easy to carry and maximize airflow, were built way oversize to acommodate larger items, like squash, papaya, elephant ear and castor leaves, and branches from trees, stalks of wheat, and the tall 6-row barley I had sent from Washington for a project for a local brewer.
Once I decided to move forward with the use of plaster as the canvas, I looked to my nieces to work with me to create their plant portraits.
We made plaster masks of their faces, and they sorted through and selected plant material and accessory items that they loved or that inspired them in some way.
I taught them the basic method I’d been using on plaster masks – polymer varnish on both sides and a weight on top of a piece of parchment paper on top of the varnished element.
While they dedicated themselves to the craft, I tidied up loose ends and sometimes got carried away with wiring cottonwood branches and gluing down seedpods.
This fall I was considering that mounting surfaces created a contextual impact, and wondered what alternatives might be possible .
I’d experi-mented with fabric, paper and paper over chicken wire, and then I remembered quick dry plaster.
After trying a few masks on myself, I found most leafy material to be a challenge on the curved and uneven surfaces of plaster, while stemy material, like tamarind, worked really well.
I found that using wire to adhere branchy pieces was more reliable than botanical glue and/or a ploymer varnish over leaves (although everything got a top coat of the varnish with a UV filter).
The first one I made (right) I covered in tobacco I picked in Weston, MO, and it applied easily right over the plaster.
Then I added a part of a squash leaf, fennel (and other) seeds, eucalyptus, a plant souvenir from Colorado, fern, and finally, beads.
Nick Cave’s Soundsuits are fantastic collages on (often) formed and (sometimes) moveable cavases. His work inspires me to embrace my own imaginings.
I wanted a wearable plant suit. I have some great pieces of bark, like this piece on the left, as well as interesting branches like pussy willow, Harry Lauder’s Walking Stick Cottonwood, and Red Twig Dogwood that would be perfect on a suit.
Biologically, we owe our existence to plants. They’re the basis for all our food (even animals eat plants, after all) …. and all our air.
They sustain us in every way, and yet we’re so disconnected from the plant world.
The past weeks I’ve been working with embroidery floss, gemstones and plant material on archival mat board.
Experimenting with layering materials alongside plant material created new light and new views.
I love the texture, color, contrast and richness the mix creates.
I have several new and old pieces up at Cafe Gratitude in Kansas City and will be there for March’s First Friday from 6:30 to around 9:00 with wine to share.
Cafe Gratitude is at 333 Southwest Blvd, Kansas City, MO 64108.
Tour a tour of the art studio, hear a talk about the importance of plant preservation in spirituality, economy, history and beauty, and a make-your own art card session from the collection of preserved plants.
When: Jan. 19, 2:00 – 4:30 pm.
Registration: Pre-registration required (register by clicking here)
An introduction to the art of plant preservation and how it’s been used throughout history by spiritualists, physicians, philosophers and scientists will be provided. A 15-20 minute talk about who has preserved plants throughout history (and why), and what remains preserved today. Some discussion about the impact of plants on our lives will be included. We will also talk about the science behind preserving.A
You be able to see a wide variety of preserved plants and finished art pieces in the artist’s studio.
The Make Sesssion
You may bring a favorite quote and/or flat, preserved plant to use and/or some selected pieces from the collection (shown in the image below and on the right) will be available to use. Additionally, prepared cut mat board and all supplies will be provided to make one or two (as time allows) 5″ x 7″ pieces suitable for framing or sending in the mail. All materials will be artist quality and appropriate for plant material.