Friday, February 01, 2019

A Picture of a Plant

 (Above:  A Picture of a Plant, detail.  Click on any image to enlarge.)

Late last year I joined ecoFAB Couture, a group of artists who create wearable art from trash.  The collective is organized by the incredible Flavia Lovatelli, a paper coiler and inventive artist whose vision isn't just to present fashion made from unusual, recycled materials but to showcase them in vignettes with both 2D and 3D artwork. I totally agree with Flavia that such an arrangement is an easy and comfortable way for viewers who might not ordinarily attend fine art events to find a way to enjoy it.  Fashion made from trash makes the elite world of haute-couture accessible.  When paired with fine craft and fine art, the entire display becomes accessible even to people who have never stepped foot into an art museum or gallery. 

(Above:  A Picture of a Plant.  44" x 46 1/2".  Pressed botanicals circa 1930-40 collaged with pages from a Victorian photo album with calligraphy and letters clipped from vintage ephemera.  Coated in epoxy, mounted on fabric.)

Even though part of ecoFAB Couture's mission is to promote fine arts and crafts, the more obvious concept is to bring attention to the destructive, human forces damaging the natural world.  Recycle, reuse, and repurpose is the mantra! Keeping things from landfills is the idea.  Creating a vignette that is a "perfect trifecta" is the challenge for each artist.  (A "perfect trifecta" is a vignette made up of a recycled garment accompanied by a related 2D and 3D work.) So, I've made The Class of 1949 as the fashion focal point and Anonymous Ancestors Folding Screen as my related 3D artwork.  Now, A Picture of a Plant makes my perfect trifecta!

 (Above:  A Picture of a Plant, in progress.)

I'm not altogether sure that the concept will totally come through, but the sepia, tan, and black-and-white tones make the three parts visually coordinated.  The concept, however, is there ... even if I can't quite put it all in words yet!  There's something very powerful about "anonymous photos" and "extinction".  Throwing things away, sending stuff to a landfill, and discarding objects that might still have purpose is (at least in my mind!) similar to fading memories, forgotten photos, and all the family stories that are lost from generation to generation.  To me, there is a strong connection between the physical environment and one's emotional/spiritual/mental environment.  Species are becoming extinct at an alarming rate.  Old photos and family heirlooms are being discard.  The loss is permanent.  My message is for preservation of both.
 (Above:  A Picture of a Plant, in progress.)

So ... how did I make A Picture of a Plant?  Well, it started at Bill Mishoe's weekly Friday night auction and a successful $25 bid on six, framed pressed botanicals dating to the late 1930s and early 1940s.  The paper labels indicated that they came from Scandinavia.  As a custom picture framer, I immediately recognized the nice, distressed Italian moulding.  I took them apart and fused the paper to acid-free, black foam-centered board.  I used my giant Seal dry-mount press, covering the plants with a piece of poly-foam due to the uneven thicknesses.  I was nervous.  This could have ruined them ... but it didn't.  Next, I took several pages from a very broken, Victorian photo album.  I soaked them in my kitchen sink in order to remove the decorative paper from the cardboard on which it was mounted.  I wasn't sure this would work either.  (As a child, this is how I soaked canceled stamps off paper envelops.)  It worked!  I ripped and collaged the paper to the exposed backgrounds of the botanicals.  To me, the paper album surrounds suggest that the "plant" is a "picture" in a forgotten family photo album.  Nothing dried perfectly flat ... so I put them in the dry mount again.  Thank goodness ... this worked too.  Using a rapidograph and carbon-based, permanent ink, I wrote on each one.  The sentences are about plant extinction.  I also added letters clipped from vintage ephemera to the upper left corner reading: A Picture of a Plant.  Finally, I poured epoxy over each one.
 (Above:  A Picture of a Plant, in progress.)

The pressed botanicals were framed on camel-colored pieces of mat board, but I didn't use them.  I knew I didn't want to put glass over the work.  Epoxy eliminated the need for glass over the plant life.  Paper mats, however, require glass. I mounted a similar colored fabric on foam-centered board.  (The fabric came from Bill Mishoe's too ... an entire bolt for $6.00!)  Fabric doesn't require glass.  I glued the epoxy covered botanicals to the fabric and let them dry under weights.

 (Above:  A Picture of a Plant, detail of one of the pressed botanicals.)

Once dry, I fit the pieces back into the original frames, screwed the frames together, and put them in a floater frame.  I think they really look great!

(Above:  A Picture of a Plant, hanging at Mouse House.)

Now that I have a perfect trifecta, I will start on a new arrangement.  It is quite challenging to think about the relationship between these three parts of a vignette.  It is an exciting way to work, to bring an environmental issue to life using unique materials through different media in three different approaches: fashion, 2D and 3D!  Below are more detail images of A Picture of a Plant.

1 comment:

Margaret said...

I continue to be gob-smacked by your ideas, your processes -- and the way you make what you know work for you!