Kava Head

kava root

Lateral kava roots, soon to be kava tea, are what you see in the picture above.

The “tea” from kava root is far and away my favorite drink.

I typically have a kava drink in the evening a few nights a week, completely replacing  all alcohol-based cocktails.

Kava is a plant-based intoxicant. Sometimes called the “drink of peace” or the “drink of the gods,”  it is deeply embedded in the cultures of the pacific islands. It’s said you can’t be angry on kava.  No mental or physical abilities are diminished while consuming normal amounts of kava

Historically, it’s been a central aspect of ceremonies, social gatherings and even political sessions where problems are worked out.  In the weeks-long coronation celebration of the of King of Tonga in 2015, there was a special kava ceremony.

In Fiji, the drink from kava is considered the national drink, and is widely consumed.

Most (not all) historians agree that kava was first grown in Vanuatu around 3,000 years ago. The islanders and their sailing canoes helped it’s spread throughout Polynesia, Fiji, and also west to Micronesia and New Guinea.

A popular drink in the Pacific Islands for over 3000 years now, kava-kava is typically consumed before the beginning of any important religious rituals or ceremonies.

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“Kava on My Mind”

Whole lateral roots from Fiji were soaked for days, then split with a utility knife. Pressed, dried and dehydrated for weeks, the pieces were then adhered to the quick-dry plaster mask (painted in coffee, beet juice and acrylic paint).

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Corn Seedlings

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One spring, a Holt County, Missouri, farmer brought young corn seedlings from their family farm to my studio. The task was to preserve them so that each of the five children would have a kind of a botanical artifact from the farm they grew up on.

I used a frame hand crafted frame in old growth pine.

Outside dimensions are 26″  x  35″

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Self-Portrait

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.

Brigid-Self

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Fringe Festival KC 2015

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.

Kansas City Finge Festival 2015

 

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.

 

 

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Humble Plants: Their Secrets

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.

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Framed Portraits

After completing the masks of mother and daughters, it seemed fitting to frame them together.

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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.

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Inside the Presses

flats 002-fThe 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.

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Portraits

Masks 010-f1.jpg 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. Masks 017-f1.jpg

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.

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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.

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New Canvas

This fall IMasks 021-f1-Tall.jpg 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).  Masks 004-f1.jpg

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.

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Bigger and Smaller

newish 001-f.jpgNick 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.

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