Artist Statement and Portfolio

Artist Statement:

In our rapidly technologizing world, we are nudged to interact with devices rather than engaging with the mechanics behind them. Plants in particular sustain us directly, though the processes through which they do so have become increasingly detached from the average person’s daily experience. My work explores the often-hidden mechanics of plant physiology, such as the tension that brings water up a ponderosa pine stem against the force of gravity, or the coevolution of the mucuna flower’s sound-reflective shape with its echo-locating bat pollinator. I use a variety of processes in my work, including textiles dyed with plants I collect, Arduino electronics controlling changes in light and sound, a MIDIsprout device which collects data on changes in electromagnetic signals within plants and converts them into sound, partially germinated seeds in raw clay, ponderosa seedlings subjected to various levels of drought, and traditional drawing and painting techniques. I aim to create work that transforms these microscopic or invisible processes into analogues viewers can experience in a tangible and visceral way. Perhaps engaging with these interpretations of plants as entities in dynamic relationships with their surroundings will contribute to our capacity to view the world around us as less silent, and more eloquent.

Samples of Recent Work:

Tree Talk, view 1.  Blackfoot Pathways Sculpture in the Wild, Lincoln MT, Emerging Artist Residency Award. September 2018. In collaboration with plant physiologist Gerard Sapés, electrical engineer Brian Givens, and electronic musician Jesse Blumenthal. Arduino sound generator circuits with sensors and speakers, acrylic and steel casings, live performances. Tree Talk sonifies 10 Ponderosa pines in a site-specific installation. Sensors translate changes in temperature, wind, and light conditions around each tree into changes in pitch and tempo. As viewers walk through the installation, the sound they hear changes. The piece is responsive, organic, and in dialogue with the site. It culminates in a live DJ performance of a duet with the trees.

Tree Talk, view 2.

Tree Talk, view 3.

Tell Me There’s a Mathematical Equation For Being Alive, View 1. University Center Gallery, Missoula MT, September 2017. Acrylic on paper, Tags, String, Arduino electronics with ultrasonic sensor and variable brightness lightbulb. Approx 25’ x 40’. Strips of brown craft paper suspended and draped from wall to wall create an artificial ceiling in the exhibition space. Paper strips are suspended closer to the ground on one side than the other, creating a passageway meandering through the gallery. The height of the paper strips dips to just under 5’, creating an obstacle to negotiating the gallery space.  The installation features paintings of approximately 100 plants with notable survival strategies—from Mucuna holtonii which uses a smooth petal to reflect sound toward its echo-locating bat pollinator, to Erodium cicutarium, a seed with a moisture-sensitive awl that drills itself into the ground, planting itself. Each image corresponds to a tag which provides the scientific and common name of the plant, and a brief description of its survival adaptation. The tags are suspended, root-like, from the ceiling on strings threaded through holes in the paper strips. As the viewer moves through the space, images become less vibrant, corresponding text less clear, and placement of the tags increasingly ambiguous. The implausible collection of specimens in the tradition of wunderkammen, and the increasingly apparent glitches in their organization, is meant not only to inspire wonder about the intricate relationships in the species surrounding us, but also to raise questions about the limits of scientific observation. Viewed in reverse, the paper has been reshaped through absorbing water in the paint—the same capillary action that brings vital nutrients to plants is repeated here in the non-living plant cells of the paper surface.

Tell Me There’s a Mathematical Equation For Being Alive, View 1.

Tell Me There’s a Mathematical Equation For Being Alive, View 3.

Lag, View 1. FrontierSpace Gallery, Missoula MT, December 2017.

Partially germinated Mucuna seeds in raw clay, cotton panels hand-dyed with locally sourced plant matter, pen drawings on paper, turmeric, sugar, dye, silk, fabric interfacing, wool, thread, graphite, wood, steel.

Gallery kept at temperature below freezing.

21’7”x 9’2”.

This piece references the lag phase of seed germination, in which the plant undergoes many important transformations allowing it to put forth a plumule and radicle (sprout and root), but none of these are apparent to the naked eye. In this piece, Mucuna pruriens seeds have been planted in balls of raw clay and allowed to progress 7-10 days in their germination process, at which point the dense and nutrient-weak nature of the clay thwarts further growth. Seven of these balls of clay extend into the floor space of the gallery, and are attached via wool thread to a series of seven panels. The panels, hand-dyed cotton with locally-sourced plant matter, are layered with pen and ink drawings of the same Mucuna plant in various phases of growth, sandwiched behind the canvas and only partially visible. As the viewer progresses through the space, movement becomes increasingly impeded by the seed balls, and the textile surface of the panels is gradually pushed and pulled by intrusions of the same wool thread, mimicking the pressure of a plant against its earthen surroundings.

Lag, View 2.

Lag, View 2.

Mucuna, View 1. Off-Center Gallery, Missoula MT, November 2017. Steel, hand-dyed string, fabric interfacing, graphite, sugar, turmeric, cast copper, raw clay, electronics, plastic-wrapped Mucuna seeds. Arduino with Brian Givens. Approx 6’ x 6’ x 8’. This piece focuses on the co-evolutionary relationship between the Mucuna plant and its bat pollinator, creating a rectilinear analogue of the flower. The trapezoidal shape is echoed by a 60 pound pile of sugar on the floor, creating a vertex to entice viewers while also generating associations with traps. As viewers approach the vertex, they trigger a sensor which increases brightness of a light—a visual reference to bats’ auditory interaction with the plant.

Mucuna, View 2.

Don’t Be Tempted, View 1. Off-Center Gallery, Missoula MT, February 2018. Hand-carved photographic film, darkroom clips, fishing line, opaque projector, pollen, performance. Dimensions variable. Environmental ethics graduate student, Rebecca Korf, reads narrative accounts regarding 30 deadly plants, with a series of delicate drawings etched on film displayed as visually appealing scientific specimens of the same lethal plants, lit by an opaque projector. The projector bulb, rather than projecting a precise image, floods the gallery with light, creating a sort of stage. It simultaneously heats a pile of pollen on a glass slide, gradually burning it throughout the performance and spreading its aroma and associated symptoms throughout the space.

Don’t Be Tempted, View 2.

Casualty. Cross-section of 3 pine needles with locally sourced Ponderosa resin & digital drawing of 30 seconds of MIDI data of human holding dying Ponderosa seedling. (Un)Necessary Duplicates Print Exchange, University of Wyoming, August 2018. 23-print lithograph edition with unique colored pencil digital drawings. 11” x 14”.

Erode: Visual Score. One of a pair of pieces in collaboration with composer Daniel Townsend. 2017. These works reference the process of cavitation within a stem when the plant experiences drought. A shortage of water—an increasingly common condition under climate change—creates a negative pressure within chains of polar-bonded molecules, and with too much pressure a plant can experience an embolism, or introduction of an air bubble to block the pathway of water—much the way humans experience embolisms. The inexorable vertical movement of the cursor, combined with organic line drawings interrupted by linear visuals and static sounds, reference the patterns that link humans and plants, and the intrusion of irregularities into those patterns.

Deposit, Visual Score.

Ponderosa, View 1. In collaboration with plant physiologist Gerard Sapés. Off-Center Gallery, Missoula MT, 2017. Hand-burned silk, dual-sided digital projection. 35” x 35” x 35”. Layers of silk are hand-burned with a soldering iron, tracing the image of tracheates, hollow passageways for transporting water, in a two-year-old Ponderosa seedling. As the soldering iron burns multiple layers of fabric, the holes generated become narrower, referencing the restriction of plant passageways as they move higher in the stem against the force of gravity. Light from the projection snakes through these holes, much the same way water meanders up the stem of the tree. Viewers are encouraged to stand in the space between panels, experiencing an analogue of the internal functioning of a Ponderosa trunk in a tangible way.

Ponderosa, View 2.

Attemping Physical Contact with Geologic Time, View 1. In collaboration with plant physiologist Gerard Sapés. Student Gallery, University of Montana, Missoula MT, 2017. Tensioned silk panels are suspended, seemingly precariously, by one string and a weight of raw clay. As the clay dries, the piece seems to become less stable, though viewers can walk around it—referencing destabilizing influence of drought in plant and human physiological systems. Digitally embroidered rectangles are repeated across the surfaces of wall pieces, referencing intrusions of irregularity in patterns of cell tracheates, and revealing cellular forms beneath fabric layers.

Attemping Physical Contact with Geologic Time, View 2.