For the past few years, I have been nurturing an artistic and spiritual project that is very dear to my heart. On November 22nd, the very first few paintings from that project will be publicly shown at Raven & Crone in Asheville.
A few summers ago, I was sitting in meditation at one of my favorite places- the Black Balsam/Sam’s Knob area off the Blue Ridge Parkway. I had been enjoying the beauty of the place, covered in wildflowers and grasses and was particularly drawn to a species of goldenrod which was plentiful in the area.
So, I sat down with a little patch of it and went into a mediation intending to speak with the plant. This is something that I learned to do from my beloved teacher, Daisy Marquis, who I have studied under for many years in the arts of mediation, energy healing, plant spirit medicine, herbalism and more. I wrote a little about my experience doing so with Foam Flower which you can read HERE.
What followed was simply divine inspiration. This plant gave me a vision for a large scale, collaborative body of work meant to illustrate plant spirit medicine.
The idea that came from goldenrod was that I was to paint the plant spirits as they appeared to people who meditated or worked with the plants. The paintings would visually demonstrate the specific spiritual medicine of the plant through the lens of those who had experienced it. Either it would be a visual portrayal of the plant spirit in humanish form (like the spirit I saw in my meditation with Foam Flower), or it would be an illustration of the effect of working with the plant directly. The vision was a collaborative, community based vision. I would ask people who already loved plants and had the experience to participate.
And I did. To date, I have photographed over 20 individuals and plants, with many people wanting to participate in the future.
I asked the participants to sit in mediation with the plant and ask it how it would like to be portrayed. They chose the setting, pose, action, composition, and costume for the plant. I photograph them in the setting of their choice (not always on location with the physical plant, but often so) and then I paint the visions they want to convey. I also asked them to write a short paragraph explaining their experiences with the plant.
Most of the participants have shared that the experience was downright magical. One participant, who posed as Dandelion, used the word “ecstatic” to describe the experience of embodying the plant spirit.
With so many people putting their energy and vision into this project, I applied for my first grant through the Toe River Arts Council. I was awarded a grant to buy some oil paint and brushes for this project.
The project took me quite a while to start painting. To say it was an intimidating task would be an understatement. Although I have confidence in my skills as a portrait painter, I felt overwhelmed by the idea of being a landscape/flower/plant painter simply because I have had very little experience with it. All those leaves! All those blossoms! And what about the paintings I had to paint that required executing visions of things that I had no reference image for because it’s not possible to photograph??
Well the answer, as usual, is to just start. And it’s going great so far!
This showing at Raven and Crone is just the very first exhibition of the first few paintings. They’re time consuming and some are very large. It’s certainly a project that will carry me for a long time. Eventually, my goal is to compile all of the essays and images into a book.
There will be no photos posted here of the paintings in progress, so come see them at the show!