The Oak Cliff Cultural Center is pleased to present Flowering, organized by Oak Cliff Cultural Center Gallery Programs Coordinator Iris Bechtol featuring the work of twelve artists who in various ways have captured the fragility, beauty, and symbolism of flowers in their work.
Artists included in the exhibit are Laura Davidson, Alicia Eggert, Zak Foster, Albert Gonzalez, Bella Pinedo, Doug Land, MOM, Cynthia Mulcahy, Niva Parajuli, René Treviño, Desireé Vaniecia, and Ashley Whitt.
American author and poet Ross Gay’s essay, Flowers in the Hands of Statues from his 2019 publication The Book of Delights inspired this exhibition through his eloquent writing about how we experience and build the world around us, particularly through the lens of flowers and nature. When describing seeing a statue adorned with flowers, Gay writes, “I suspect this statue-adorning impulse, whether or not we know who the public figure is, is evidence, more evidence, that our inclination, our nature, is to communicate the beautiful and the fragrant however we can.”
Who doesn’t love flowers? If not for their beauty, then for their sheer tenacity and ability to evolve, so they, rooted in one place, get what they need from everything around them. It's no wonder that flowers appear in all guises across all the arts disciplines. Flowers themselves permeate our lives; besides feeding insects, birds, and mammals, they feed the human psyche, providing us with visual beauty and a connection to the natural world. Our cultivation of them has been both physical and philosophical. Humans give them as gifts of love and celebrations of life, share their bounty of seeds, and immortalize them in the visual and literary arts. Illustrations of flowers can be seen in early Egyptian frescoes and have been important symbols in all cultures. Using a variety of methods and media, the artists in Flowering illustrate, recontextualize, and amplify the flower, communicating ideas surrounding sustainability, politics, history, culture, and our experience being in the world.
Artists Laura Davidson and Zak Foster make use of reclaimed materials in their work. Using low-waste art practices, Davidson sculpts objects from recycled paper pulp and fabrics for her fiber works and installations. Her installation incorporates flower motifs using traditional paper quilling techniques and recycled paper. Foster began quilting in 2010 and works with old clothes, worn-out linens, leftover shirting material, thrown-out umbrellas, and vintage tablecloths. His tiny quilt made from repurposed textiles and artificial flowers which he found blown about at a cemetery is a quiet act of remembrance for those passed.
René Treviño’s artistic practice draws on a diverse range of influences, from American pop culture to traditional Aztec mythologies. His Fly By Night series, like vanitas paintings, utilize skulls and flies as symbols of death while incorporating floral headdresses to reference the Mexican tradition of Día de Los Muertos. Interdisciplinary artist Alicia Eggert’s work “gives material form to language and time”. Her video Alas documents the wilting of flowers of her letterform sculpture of the same name. The sculpture made of chicken wire and MDF form the word “Alas”. As time passes the “Alas” wilts, amplifying the word as an expression of grief or concern.
Bella Pinedo explores the common notions of female identity. Dreamy with flowers and intensely colored decorative patterns, Pinedo’s mixed media illustrations on paper “dissects the ethos of womanhood stemming from antiquity to contemporary understandings". Desireé Vaniecia “explores the representation of Black women, celebrating their beauty, strength, and diversity”. In her recent body of work, Art Nouveau motifs and symbolic flowers frame stylistic portraits exploring the Seven Deadly Sins.
Exploring themes of duality, psychological states, and mortality, Ashley Whitt uses photographic techniques to create sculptural books, video, and prints. Inspired by the poetry of Charles Baudelaire and “his attempts to extract beauty from the malignant”, her work explores fragmented memory through digitally manipulated photographs of flowers, wallpaper patterns, and body parts. Cynthia Mulcahy’s War Garden series references the use of biological terminology in US military operations which are often taken directly from flora and fauna. Her site-specific work in Flowering makes use of a weight-bearing pole that is part of the gallery structure to recreate the Daisy Cutter from her War Garden series.
Based in San Antonio, Texas, Albert Gonzales’ minimalistic paintings of flowers explore the Japanese philosophy of wabi-sabi. Bold, flat color, clean lines, and simplified shape in his Wabi-Sabi Street Art Project combines his bold flowers with broken and forgotten buildings to further explore the ideas of the philosophy while considering the life and history of these places. Also working with bold and simplified composition, the multi-disciplinary artist MOM’s dynamic landscapes focus on experimenting with contrast, balance, color, and illusionary line. Her installations capitalize on her signature style, continuing her use of bold, dynamic compositions and her large foam flower sculptures place the viewer into an immersive space, flipping the human to environment relationship.
Niva Parajuli’s practice is built around “improvisation and accidents...in response to light, material, space, sound and smell”. His paintings and installations experiment with various materials including wood, tape, plaster, polymer clay, and lasers. Niva’s polymer clay compositions of flowered compositions are like looking at the landscape from very far away or very high up. Doug Land explores “notions of beauty, wealth, class, and death through the lens of gardening. His sight specific installations work with living plants, natural materials, and sustainable practices to share his experience with nature.
Flowering opens with a reception on April 1, 6 – 8 pm at the Oak Cliff Cultural Center. San Antonio artist Albert Gonzales’ Wabi Sabi Street Art Project will be installed at various locations around Jefferson Blvd, near the center.
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