Mn Artists continues its arts writing initiative with a sixth original series designed by a guest editor, aimed at highlighting a particular slice of the Minnesota arts community. From May to July 2019, visual artist and writer Regan Golden developed a suite of articles at the intersection of botany and visual culture—drawing on work in fields like photography, urban forestry, printmaking, biology, public art, medicine, floriography, and curatorial practice. Plant blindness, a cognitive bias marked by the human tendency to ignore plant species, was a thread that connected the pieces, and this concept offered a way to lend visibility to themes like family history, geography and place, time and attention, embodiment, mindfulness, illness and healing, education, and more. This series lends a distinctly Midwestern angle to wider conversations in contemporary art about the interrelation of human and plant life, foregrounding the curiosity that drives both artistic and scientific inquiry. The complete Seeing Plants series, collected below, was guided by the following editorial statement by Golden:
I wonder how many people in Minnesota right now are peeling a sweet potato, wiping their hands on a cotton dishcloth, looking out at their garden, or taking an aspirin? Seeing Plants, a series of writings by artists, designers and botanists, questions the role that plants play in our everyday lives as material for our artwork, as inspiration, as medicine, as a reminder of our own mortality. So much of life in Minnesota is now (and has always been) shaped by the plants that constitute much of our environment: so many memories of this place are informed by the smell, the taste, the texture, the color of plants. And yet, plants are sometimes overlooked—just a flash of yellow, a dash of pink along the side of the highway.
There are two themes that sow themselves throughout this series: first of all, the visibility of plants. How do we see and experience plants? What role can artists play in making the cultural importance of plants more visible? The second theme to emerge is the dual strength and fragility of plants. How do plants sustain us? What do plants tell us about our own fragile existence?
Seeing Plants examines the role of plants in the practice of several contemporary artists based in the Midwest. The writings in this series approach the visibility of plants from a perceptual, intellectual, cultural, and aesthetic perspective.
Writings Commissioned by Regan Golden for Mn Artists
Golden introduces Seeing Plants, a series of writings by artists, designers and botanists questioning the role that plants play in our everyday lives: as material for our artwork, as inspiration, as medicine, as a reminder of our own mortality.
Interdisciplinary artist Ian Hanesworth considers the shifts of attention that arose in the process of their print series on medicinal plants—and how what we notice can become a gesture of reciprocity with the natural world that supports our lives.
Golden interviews Lisa Philander, the director and curator of the University of Minnesota College of Biological Sciences Conservatory, about the intersection of curatorial practice and biology, the shifting cultural awareness of plants, and the strategies she uses for boosting the visibility of plants and educating the public to inspire conservation efforts.
Artist and photographer Jiamu Wu cracks open the deep observation of road surfaces that grew into the project Daily Fractures, evolving into a meditation on the materiality of time and the dimensions of vision.
Textile designer, public artist, and field botanist Sarah Nassif traverses the overlap between her work in urban forestry and socially engaged art, facilitating transformative encounters with plants and inspiring the public to notice nature everywhere.
Two stories by visual artist and photographer Pao Houa Her illuminate the transformative presence of plants within personal, familial, and political histories, from the midst of war in the jungles of Laos to a kitchen in Minnesota.
Jess Hirsch, artist and founder of the Women’s Woodshop, explores the power of plants to reveal our intentions and transform our emotions through meditation.
To conclude the Seeing Plants series, Golden shares three episodes in which artmaking and parenting, body and vision, nature and city collide.