Wednesday, July 28, 2010

the long history of connection between art and botany

Capri  by Joseph Stella

Recently I visited the fascinating HUMAN FLOWER PROJECT via the blog 'not all those who wander are lost' of  South Australian based textile artist (botanical alchemist) of enormous talent and renown India Flint.

botanical alchemy on the line and in the book form - a must see!


The Human Flower Project is an international newsgroup, photo album and discussion of humankind’s relationship with the floral world. We report on art, medicine, society, history, politics, religion, and commerce. Written and photographic submissions are welcome.
Since its inception in September 2004, the Human Flower Project has been non-commercial, focussing rather on research, news gathering, commentary, and visual documentation. I hope to present worldwide perspectives on this topic and welcome contributors of all ages and nationalities. Julie Ardery

This Project is the brain child of Julie Ardery - a sociologist and writer in Austin, Texas. I was overwhelmed by the wealth of material at this site... and suggest a good visit when you have time. I know  often we like to shown a lot of images and not need to wade through the text... blogging after all lends itself so beautifully to the visual arena of life.

Anyone drawn to flora in art-making and design ..... this site is a little like adding rich nutrients to your garden of ideas...  here is something to mine and to ponder. Seriously worth a look!

From the mourners of a Neanderthal man buried with flowers in 60,000 B.C.. to today’s megawatt floral designers on HGTV, people have turned to flowers out of anxiety, necessity and joy.
By studying flowers, we look into human emotion and value. Since the flower trade is global, and has been for centuries, by following the circuit of plants across the world, we track international relations and economics.
Seeing how artists represent flowers, we re-experience what it is to be living temporarily, alongside life in many forms different from ourselves. Julie Ardery

I bookmarked numerous articles but will share this today!

First up:  In Architecture, Ancient Plants Grow - (archive 16 feb 2009)  an article written by Russell Bowes who looks back several thousand years to the papyrus, palms, lotus and acanthus still rooted in the world's building styles. Bowes is a garden historian and lecturer based in London.

Stylized papyrus blooms top columns  Ramesseum—Luxor, Egypt

Photo:via wiki

By Russell Bowes
Ornamentation of a building is not strictly necessary.  Doors, windows and walls function just as well plain as decorated.  Yet for thousands of years, people have turned the structural parts of buildings into naturalistic and stylised depictions of local plants and flowers.
Was this for the joy in decorating plain surfaces?  Or did the leaves and fruits have deeper meaning? Perhaps ancient buildings speak to us in a language we no longer hear, with words we no longer understand.

File:Hathor with sacred eye in papyrus.JPG
Goddess Hathor stalks through papyrus plants, from Papyrus of Ani
Photo: via wiki

The earliest Egyptian builders worked in a landscape inhospitable to trees.  Thin soil, negligible rainfall and constant desert winds don’t support large stands of timber; thus, buildings constructed entirely of wood were extremely rare.  In the millennia before the widespread use of stone as a building material, with wood at a premium and with relatively crude hand tools unsuitable for working what little timber was available, the ancient Egyptians used more abundant materials which were more workable with the tools they possessed. 
The Egyptians staple building material was made from bundles of reeds, woven with palm fronds for added tensile strength and liberally smeared with layers of mud from the Nile. Palm leaves, however, are not completely flat but curve at the tip, and these curved tips were often left poking free of the structure at the tops of walls, forming a curved ‘architrave’ between the uppermost section of the wall and the roof. In centuries to come, when walls were made of stone blocks, this curve would be translated into stone, becoming the cavetto cornice which is such a distinctive feature of Egyptian architecture.  Often painted to resemble a row of palm fronds, they served constantly to remind the later Egyptians of their architectural heritage. 
Read more by clicking on the website above and going to the
archives for the date I posted... for some reason this in not opening as per usual at the article page. I thought this excerpt below was a fascinating reminder of the difference between originating and copying ideas...  the Romans subsuming the Greek cultural legacy.
The native flora of Egypt and Greece profoundly influenced the buildings each culture created.  The effects were both stylistic and symbolic, with each country’s buildings honouring their gods and paying homage to indigenous creations myths.  The Romans, having subsumed the forms of Greece into their own culture, with sometimes little or no understanding of the ideas that lay behind them, exported their adopted architectural styles around their empire.  The use of the principal elements, in decorative terms, reappeared throughout time and around the world.
Years ago I did my own appropriating of ancient forms as part of an investigation of how intrinsic symbols were in the ancient world. I was interested in the perrenial fascination with form  - the way that symbol still speaks to us even when meaning is lost or not apparent. Staying 4 months in Greece in 1987 and travelling to Egypt the following year I was able to indulge in my passion for these ancient cultures at some length.

Sophie Munns: 'ancient , but reverberating still'

The other article I wish to highlight  JOSEPH  STELLA'S  RESOLUTION  is posted on the 13 of january 2009.

This article brought to mind the bloggers who make a resolution to do a painting a day or something similar. Apparently Stella also did this - Im not sure for what length of time - perhaps throughout his life. What stands out for me is that he felt such a strong necessity to 'buck the system' whilst at art school (and no doubt afterwards). Painting flowers was forbidden where he studied and steel girders were definitely the order of the day. Julie Ardery writes this after becoming aware of the 'human flower project' as she puts it that Stella embarked on.

“...that my every working day might begin and end, as a good omen, with the light, gay painting of a flower.”
Joseph Stella called this his “devout wish” (My Painting, 1946)—synonymous, we’d say, with a resolution.
We came upon Joseph Stella’s resolution this fall, visiting the Smithsonian American Art Museum. His articulation of a human flower project was printed on the wall label below Neapolitan Song, painted in 1926 – four years after Stella had revisited his beloved Italian homeland.

Neapolitan Song
Neapolitan Song (1926), by Joseph Stella

Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C.
From the little we know of him, he seems to have mustered this resolution and followed throughearly in his career, bucking considerable peer pressure to do so. Studying at the Art Students League in 1896 (hotbed of early Modernists) he bridled at the academy’s “rule forbidding the painting of flowers.” Low-life in the city and steel girders were the order of the day ( actually Stella was quite good with girders, too). By 1897 he had moved to the New York School of Art to work with William Merritt Chase, a pro-flora painter to be sure.
(For much more about the artist and his floral works, see Joseph Stella: Flora, the text available online. It catalogues an exhibition held January 8 - March 6, 1998 at Eaton Fine Art, West Palm Beach, Florida, and includes a long essay by Barbara Rose.)
Catalogue of Joseph Stella, Flora
Eaton Fine Art, Palm Beach, Florida

Reading about Stella’s life, we wonder if he didn’t suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder, as the gray winters of New York and, later, Paris, really got him down. He seems to have required periodic infusions of sun and green to keep on working: a long visit in Venice, the Naples trip, and late in life, a journey to Barbados. We think it also probable that each of us carries a special affinity for the climate, the colors, and plants of our childhoods. For a painter, this affinity would reasonably be intensified, in some cases amounting to a kind of craving – Van Gogh for his irises, water lilies and palms for Joseph Stella.
As for his devout wish – to paint a flower every day – what a sign of health, to turn personal necessity, no matter how quirky or against the grain, into an explicit plan. May all our resolutions be as honest and as clearly consummated.

... well ... plenty to explore at the Human Flower Project.Thanks to India I found my way there and hope you might too!

To read more on this subject click here to go to a just posted article at my other blog.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

SEED: the Science Magazine for the 21st Century.


ABOUT SEED MAGAZINE: Science is changing our world. It is behind the transformations—social, economic, artistic, intellectual, and political—that are defining the 21st century. Through this lens, and with the newest tools of media and journalism, we aim to tell the fundamental story of our world today and to provide information and knowledge to help you prepare for the story tomorrow.
NB: This magazine is not about seeds... that is simply the title chosen for an all-encompassing Science magazine (Sophie)

To read an article on GN Seeds for study at SEED magazine:


Bruce Stutz writes on science, nature, and the environment. A former editor-in-chief ofNatural History, he is a contributing editor to OnEarth. He has written for the New York TimesThe Christian Science MonitorThe Washington PostDiscover and Audubon. He is the author of Natural Lives, Modern Times and Chasing Spring, An American Journey Through a Changing Season.

Credit: The International Rice Research Institute.

In February 2009, frustrated by industry restrictions on independent research into genetically modified crops, two dozen scientists representing public research institutions in 17 corn-producing states told the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that the companies producing genetically modified (GM) seed “inhibit public scientists from pursuing their mandated role on behalf of the public good” and warned that industry influence had made independent analyses of transgenic crops impossible.
Unprepared for the scientists’ public protest and the press accounts that followed it, the industry, through its American Seed Trade Association (ASTA), met with crop scientists. Late last year, ASTA agreed that, while still restricting research on engineered plant genes, it would allow researchers greater freedom to study the effects of GM food crops on soil, pests, and pesticide use, and to compare their yields and analyze their effects on the environment.
While many scientists expressed optimism about the agreement, questions remain over whether — and how soon — it will alter what has been a research environment rife with obstructions and suspicion.
Since the first GM crops were planted some 15 years ago, the companies that developed them have claimed broad control over their use. Farmers don’t simply buy a bag of GM seed from Monsanto, Syngenta, or DuPont. Instead, they enter into a “Technology/Stewardship Agreement” with the company that developed it, the fine print of which lays out, among other things, the terms under which the seed can be used, where it can be grown, where it can be sold (many international governments do not allow the sale of GM crops or products made with them), and the brand of herbicides that can be used. This “bag-tag,” as it’s known, also specifically restricts any use of the seed for research.
While U.S. farmers quickly adopted GM crops — GM corn now makes up nearly the entire U.S. crop, and GM soybeans are not far behind — scientists found it hard to adapt to the bag-tag paradigm.
“We used to be able to go into any farm store and buy seeds, test them in the field, and publish our results,” said one researcher. With the advent of GM crops, however, even scientists working in public land grant institutions, whose extension services have long provided farmers with independent analyses, found their research ultimately subject to seed company approval.
If a scientist wanted to compare brands of seeds, for instance, or their environmental impact, he or she had to seek permission from each seed company or gene patent holder. Open access to the study’s data and the right to publish that data had to be secured, while, for their part, the companies sought to protect their patents and intellectual property rights. Even if the companies did not object, contract negotiations, made on a case-by-case basis, could be extended and onerous. Making things worse was that with fewer public monies available for farm research, scientists, and their universities, found themselves increasingly dependent on the seed companies for funding.
To read the entire article click here!

Another of the many brilliant articles that grabbed my attention! From June 7, 2010 Pandora's Seed. Guest essay by Spencer Wells.

About the author

Spencer Wells is an Explorer-in-Residence at the National Geographic Society and Frank H. T. Rhodes Class of ’56 Professor at Cornell University. He leads the Genographic Project, which is collecting and analyzing hundreds of thousands of DNA samples from people around the world in order to decipher how our ancestors populated the planet. Wells received his Ph.D. from Harvard University and conducted postdoctoral work at Stanford and Oxford. He has written two books, The Journey of Man and Deep Ancestry.

In 2007 I started a Masters in Fine Arts that was let go late that first year due to unexpected illness and relocating interstate. The topic I was pursuing had something of a strong connection to what I gleaned this article was in no small part addressing - to do with enormous change and the velocity of the change we are countering at this time. I was interested in pondering what the implications for a contemporary artist were in responding to this quality of change and the resulting anxieties and problems to be seen in communities all over.
If the early 20th century resulted in groups like the Dadaists voicing their unique vision I wondered what it might mean now to be addressing current local/global agendas and be contributing a reading of ways that resiliance might overcome growing pressures  - and how  employing one's capacities as an artist might be of value.
Perhaps even now I am not clear when I mention this... I was quite clear about the chaos and complexity I was witnessing or personally experiencing as I navigated through the flux of my own life - what eluded me was the precise idea I wished to pursue. Homage to the Seed evolved out of that heightened restlessness to be engaged in questions of now and the future meaningfully. 
There remains that sense that immense questions hang over us and the much needed rhythm of deft navigating is what we are called on to familiarise ourselves with in a way like never before. Complexity meets velocity is a potent combination.
I know many of us have been taught that the getting of a good career/job and our home is the ticket to security. Increasingly the counter arguement of "following our bliss" has rung out to those free enough to pursue it, fool-hardy enough or just plain vocationally driven by inner necessity.
Then along comes a series of factors since 9/11 that seem to mock both ideals... in all seriousness... how precisely do we think we are going to create security for ourselves now and into the future! We've seen the error and vulnerability at the end of the day of those only thinking of themselves.
Seed is a magazine that will prompt a great many timely thoughts... have a look when you can!

from St Ives, Cornwall

An interesting diversion is discovering how others are inspired by Seeds and Pods... and a mixed media textile artist based in Cornwall draws on her surrounding environment in various ways. A visit to the blog LOVE STITCHING RED of Carolyn Saxby is well worth a look....and not just for textile enthusiasts. You will find links to her other sites and much to inspire.
A recent post JULY 5: Summer Sketchbooks, Seeds and Seaside featured these wonderful images;

A new day

Monday, July 26, 2010

Postcards from the blogosphere...the story continues!

Perhaps you have read about the continuing arrival of wonderful mail art paying 'homage to the seed'. I have been assuring contributers these cards will be shown again this year ... so dont think they will be lost from sight. They are sitting in a box close by my computer. The cause of much discussion these cards bring fresh perspectives on the place of seeds in out lives - and really bring the idea of valuing this humble yet miraculous lifeforce contained in each small seed.
If you visit my other blog a number of July/2010 posts include cards sent from near and far!

Have a look at these ... loved the stamps on the envelope from  sanne van winden in the
Netherlands. (Please excuse the poor quality photograph... experiencing difficulty with camera at present.) Sanne's postcards below are printed from original pen and ink drawings....she was concerned the subject matter might not fit the bill... but something about these is so resonant with life bursting through... and that felt just right. It was a colourful envelopt o receive...inside and out...thank you Sanne!!! 

Sanne wrote these gorgeous words to go with her cards...

'a day closer to that day 
that will come again
and again,
even more beauty
 even more to give...'

and from the U.S.

From Jacylin in Chico, California comes this gorgeous card in watercolour... Its a Calfornia Redbud  or Cercis occidentalis and Jacylin wrote that the Maidu Indians would use the branches for basketry and for the shafts of their arrows. Visit her wonderful blog blue china studio to see more of her work and say hello from me! Delighted you sent this beautiful tribute Jacylin!

And here we have something very different and I think you'll agree with me...quite amazing! I'm going to absolutely make sure these cards get another showing... this one was on is way and arrived in time for a few to take a peek ... let me introduce you to 

cathy camperyou can bug me!
and if you visit her website you will get see much more from this very clever person... who does the most curious and fascinating Seed Art ...really! Take a close art. I am in possession of this one called 'Rosalia alpina'. I have to make sure children get to see it in particular! The real thing is just a little smaller than this.

I feel very honoured to have Cathy take time to make and send this from her home in Portland Oregon.

... loved what she wrote here:

about the author
Cathy Camper has published articles and stories for children and adults in CricketWired, and Giant Robot magazines. She coedits a tiny magazine about candy called Sugar Needle, and likes to make art out of seeds, and toy robots out of junk. Although she loves fossilized insects and getting surprises in the mail, please don't send her any gigantic bugs, especially if they have more than eight legs. 

Here's another of her works titled "Tribolite Fossil" - its 16" x20"

[Cathy C. Trilobite Fossil image]

Seeds used: 
poppy seed, lentils, acorn caps, honey locust, black locust, 
catalpa, yucca pods and seeds, chestnut hulls, elm bark, 
hawthorn thorns, rose thorns, daylilly pods, plant detritus

I find them extraordinary. If you go to her website you can even send an animated postcard to a friend... check it out at the website... click on postcards. Love it! Cathy writes books of various kinds...  do go and have a look! I found more at Google. Huge thanks Cathy! 
And can I tell you I just happened to find something about her seed art one day when on the net and wrote to her...  she later volunteered to send a postcard... how wonderful!

Speaking of Portland I have some delightful postcards to add now from the lovely Gloria Freshly, also from Portland, Oregon. Sometimes I fantasise about living there... why do I get the impression its such a great place? Anyway... Gloria's envelope has written on the back of it the message... SENT WITH HOPE!! ( for goodness in the world). I really liked the thought of that message being read by a postal worker here or there...and caretaker at the gardens who collects the mail.

You know its taken me quite a bit of time to post all these cards...partly because I kept remembering  the extra details .... the added messages which feel important to share too!

OK... here I'm posting these in large format because of the textural quality of the surface... and the way the colour has been applied. Click on these to enlarge for better viewing! I'll add some text straight form Gloria's blog about her process.. What a treat to have all these different mediums, processes and styles of work in these various postcards from people from all over... to appreciate seeds.
Mixed media on vintage postcards... dont you love the way they play with forms?

This one below refers to a technique of Linoleum rubbing - Prismacolour on paper.

Gloria: With the exception of the white and dark brown portions of the flower, above, virtually all of the glued elements on these cards are the end result of assorted rubbings that I did of a discarded piece of linoleum  my sister gave me last week. I found it more than a little challenging to work at this scale, but I seemed to have better  luck when I simplified the designs. 

  Gloria wrote at her blog on July 18 and July 7 about the homage mail art show.... Go see her lovely blog... Thank you so much Gloria for parting with these and sharing your best wishes and artworks!

We will stop off at Maryland on the East Coast now to view a very interesting work that Elizabeth O'hara posted on her blog as a tribute to the homage to the seed mail art show July 11th. The title of the work is 'Seed Talk'  Elizabeth says:  'its dedicated to artist Sophie Munns for her careful observation and

beautiful interpretation of seeds.' 

She also posted on July 6 about the mail art show... and managed to find this stamp which Id not seen before...

Warmest thanks to you Elizabeth... and go well with all your new endeavours!

Back on Australian soil now for a textile postcard that included some gorgeous hand dying and stitching as a tribute to the fames Black bean pod we know so well around here. The creator is Margie Creek who was part of a group of textile artists from the Darling Downs, a rural area - the bread basket of australia it has been called. I met Margie and 9 others inmay when they came to the Botanic Gardens at Mt Coot-Tha for a visit to see what I was doing for the project on seeds....good exchanges have lead to further connections and I hope to go up and visit in September....and hour or so from here. Margie doesn't have a blog as such but I was keen to make the link and delighted when she and another in her group Nicki Laws got involved.

Big thank you Margie for taking the time to make this and send... it was much commented on!

These are from Brisbane - from Sally Flynn... and I must say how much I loved her medium for working on... a timber veneer. Light-weight and thin... but so suited to what Sally did with them. Lovely to discover Sally and her blog....thrilled she took part as Id not met her or discovered her blog before. Where was she when the Open Studio Week was happening? Not Brisbane ...oh no...she was stuck in Paris and Amsterdam and Germany and the like having a delightful time... just visited her blog and it looks like Paris today!  Happy travels Sally and big thanks for finding time to make these wonderful postcards (she sent a few) Note the stitching also on the printed wood.... pretty cool! Oh... and the winged seeds pods are from the Sycamore tree... helicopter seed pods.delightful!

Someone who did get to visit Open Studio Week created this fabulous card below on the spot the day she came. The lovely Katrina  ( her blog is katrina recycled ) joined the communal table on the saturday and picked up textas and started drawing the seedpods children had been working with earlier whilst engaging in a great table discussion with a number of us enjoying tea and conversation.

Katrina, is mum to a couple of kids, works (I think) full time and makes the effort to get stuck into her art whenever she can... I loved the fact she sat and warmed to the conversation and just created something on the spot. And I think her card is fantastic to boot. Love the small branches of seepods sitting over this text...wonderfully composed! Big thanks Katrina for coming all that way from out of town to visit and add something to this project ...glad you enjoyed the gardens at leisure - it was delightful to see you!

OK...last but not may have seen these wonderful postcards by Brisbane based Leanne who has a gorgeous blog Homemade Rainbows... her July 15 post is a delightful teeling of her visit to see the open studio event... and we met for the first time after having exchanged various blog communications for a while. Take note of the excellent quotes on her cards... Click on the images to enlarge them and see better what amazing texural additions she has included in the top one. Love the Nietzsche quote at the bottom...quite wonderful!

well....theres a few to photograph yet...sorry for this unbelievably slow process... I was very keen to give all who took part, or told others about it, a good chance to shine and be acknowledged ... You were so wonderful to take the time for this homage theme... the earth needs people who aren't too busy, overwhelmed with life demands, or distracted who can weave some magic around this extraordinary heritage which is ours to protect...

with gratitude...

NB If you go to the other blog you can read several july 2010 posts displaying the wonderful postcards that arrived from all over!
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