Seeing Plants: Vision, Botany and Contemporary Art
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.
In 2006, with a grant from the Joan Mitchell Foundation, Regan Golden started photographing the woods behind her grandmother’s house in Massachusetts before it was demolished. Four years later, she received a Long-term Ecological Research Grant in the Arts from the National Science Foundation to study the different ways that artists and scientists depict ecological change at the world’s “most wired forest,” The Harvard Forest in Petersham, MA. Working in collaboration with printmaker Jeremy Lundquist, Golden reordered Harvard’s forestry museum to reflect the cyclical nature of deforestation in this region.
The challenge of describing a changing landscape continues to fuel her work. As a fellow in Critical Studies at the Core Program at the Museum of Fine Arts Houston, she spent a year researching and writing about how vision functions in a landscape. In 2015, Golden refocused her work on a landscape closer to home–the urban prairie in Minneapolis. In support of this project, she received a 2015 Jerome Foundation Fellowship for Emerging Artists and a 2017 Minnesota State Arts Board Grant.
Golden’s work has been included in numerous solo and group exhibitions nationally and internationally, including the Midwest Photographers Project at the Museum of Contemporary Photography in Chicago, IL; Lawndale Art Center in Houston, TX; Gallery 44: Centre for Contemporary Photography in Toronto, ON; The Cue Foundation in New York, NY; the Rochester Art Center in Rochester, MN; Soo Visual Art Center in Minneapolis, MN and The Painting Center in New York, NY.