All of my work has historical art—mostly still life—as its starting point. My botanical paintings grew from the relationship that I perceived between the rise of still life in early modern Europe and burgeoning European capitalism, colonialism, and globalization. Our current moment is characterized by the outcome of these global strategies of exploitation, including the fraught relationship between human and non-human organisms. These works explore our relationship with plants and consider the ways that humans have shaped plants to meet our aesthetic and culinary goals. These paintings, I hope, reflect my ambivalence about the current state of human-plant relations: on the one hand the international cut flower trade is extremely wasteful and treats plants as industrial commodities rather than organisms, but on the other hand generations of gardeners have established symbiotic relationships with particular species of plants. In the latter I find hope.
Since 2019 I have been developing a body of work that takes advantage of the traditional textile supports for oil painting, using paintings as material for quilting. This possibility suggested itself to me through my own biography: my grandmother, a Midwestern farmer, taught me to quilt when I was a child, and quilting is a craft that is alive among the women of my family. Upon seeing a group of us gathered around the kitchen table quilting, an older (male) relative once commented: “I’ll never understand women—they take a perfectly good piece of fabric, cut it up, and sew it back together again!” The contrary nature of that gesture of cutting and repurposing interests me, as does the practice’s association with women. My choice to paint and quilt copies after French artists from the 18th and 19th centuries is my way of grappling with the complicated legacy of that revolutionary era.