Hot House Hybrids
Hot House Hybrids is a continuation of the flower series I made for the Earth is Intimate in 2017. I call those images “Big Girls and Painted Ladies” emphasizing the flowers’ metaphorical connection to the female and the feminine. The use of watercolor in combination with the photographs allows for a double meaning. The flowers are meant to represent females and suggest the feminine but they are also literally painted and dominate the frame. These are flowers in all their beautiful glory. They verge on cliché. They attract and repel. I hoped the images might lead the viewer not only to question our notion of beauty (natural and unnatural), and photography (straight and manipulated) but also the terms “big girl” and “painted lady”. These latter are less than empowering descriptions for the female – the first, a euphemistic term used to describe an overweight woman or a tall woman or perhaps a naïve young woman and the second, a term used to describe a woman whose sexuality is for sale. These are terms used by culture to denigrate the female and limit her physicality and sexuality. Beauty too is a questionable premise, in art, in nature, and as it applies to the female and humans in general. What does it mean to be a beautiful female? What makes an image beautiful?
For me, beauty has to do with character. In this series, I wondered what might happen if I allowed my girls to get older, wiser, louder, more daring. What would happen if I allowed myself to more thoroughly embrace painting and turn it too, metaphorically, into an empowerment. Where is the boundary between the beautiful and the horrific, the ripe and the rotten, between naivete and wisdom? In these I recognize that I am Eve and I am getting older. Like Mary Shelley’s Dr. Frankenstein, I have dissected and reassembled these hot house hybrids from the genetic shards of abstract painting and straight photography and its digital progeny. Are they monstrous desecrations of the photograph and bastardizations of painting or are they a new genetic strain, stronger, faster, smarter?
These images are connected to the work in my new book – Break Boundary: Places Real and Imagined – by the color I capture from the real world and the color I create in my studio. It is perhaps not immediately clear, however, that the connection between these two bodies of work also hinges on the idea of the Break Boundary, the place of transformation where one thing turns into something else. I am interested in that moment where to borrow from Lawrence Weschler’s book on Robert Irwin, we forget, for a moment, the name of what we see.