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What the Flowers Know II: Vintage Floral Collage

vintage floral collage of monoprinted flowers, page from plant book, and other ephemera

What the Flowers Know II, mixed media collage on vintage book cover, 11 x 14 in

ingredients: monoprints, vintage botany book pages, plant identification page from antique science lab book, old photo album page,stamps, mica, stitching 

2 JANUARY, 2018

Plant Love

What the Flowers Know II is a vintage floral collage that plays on a theme that will be familiar to anyone who has followed my work. I am constantly inspired by nature, and I love learning about it. I guess you could say I’m a bit of a science geek. If I had not become an artist, I would probably have studied some kind of science. (In college, I actually switched my major to biology at one point.)

Where plants are concerned, no one can deny that they play a huge part in all of our lives. Just for starters, we eat them, animals that we eat eat them, and they make the oxygen that we breathe. Pretty important, wouldn’t you say?

close-up phot of orange tiger lily

photo of nicotiania and Russian sage

skipper butterfly on purple coneflower

Vintage Floral Collage

Flowers attract us because of their obvious beauty. Their brilliant colors, graceful forms, and pleasant scents also attract the pollinators so necessary for their reproduction. Poets have written about them for centuries, but scientists are just beginning to discover some of their secrets. I shared some of these fascinating new findings in this post on my old blog, when I introduced the companion piece, What the Flowers Know.  In case you’re interested, I’m again sharing the link to a very thought-provoking and seemingly incredible article in the the New Yorker called The Intelligent Plant by Michael Pollan.

vintage floral collage of dried flowers, seeds, feather, and ephemera

What Do Plants Know?

"The new research, he says, is in a field called plant neurobiology — which is something of a misnomer, because even scientists in the field don’t argue that plants have neurons or brains.

‘They have analagous structures,’ Pollan explains. ‘They have ways of taking all the sensory data they gather in their everyday lives … integrate it and then behave in an appropriate way in response. And they do this without brains, which, in a way, is what’s incredible about it, because we automatically assume you need a brain to process information.’ ”  (PRI Science Friday)

Amazingly, he goes on to explain detailed experiments that show apparent presence of memory by plants, as well as responses to stimuli, such as hearing, and even the ability to learn. To me, this is poetic in itself, because it makes us aware that all living things are more alike than we ever thought possible.

How could we not be connected, when we are made of the same stuff?  Life started as a single cell, and grew and differentiated from that cell, so perhaps we shouldn’t be so surprised at the commonalities, even among living things so apparently different from one another as plants and (human) animals.

A Trancendentalist View

page from antique botany class herbarium

I think about the vintage materials I used in these collages, and how much scientific knowledge has advanced since these items were originally made and used. The science lab herbarium pages (example above) are from a hundred years ago. I wonder what the people who were  taking that botany course, so long ago, would have thought if someone had told them that plants could remember, and even communicate with one another. It seems pretty incredible to me, so I can hardly imagine how shocked they would have been. Or maybe not. Perhaps, less encumbered by the logic of modern science, they would have more readily accepted this somewhat transcendentalist view of nature.

pages from Emily Dickenson's herbarium

Above, a page from Emily Dickenson's herbarium.

"...But the pine is no more lumber than man is, and to be made into boards and houses is no more its true and highest use than the truest use of a man is to be cut down and made into manure. There is a higher law affecting our relation to pines as well as to men. A pine cut down, a dead pine, is no more a pine than a dead human carcass is a man." 

~ Henry David Thoreau, The Maine Woods

photo of colrful tree foliage in Fall

photo of colorful trees in Fall

Transcendentalism was “a strain of Romanticism that took root among writers in mid-19th-century New England. Ralph Waldo Emerson laid out its principles in his 1836 manifesto Nature, in which he asserted that the natural and material world exists to reveal universal meaning to the individual soul via one’s subjective experiences. He promoted the poet’s role as seer, a “transparent eyeball” that received insight intuitively through his or her perception of nature.”

I love that. So, going forward, I make it my mission to be that "transparent eyeball."

close-up photo of human eye


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