A Meandering Artist Statement
I grew up among gardeners and quiet observers. I built forts and worlds with the wildlife in my backyard with my brother. My dad would wheel my brother's wheelchair up next to him while weeding and watering the plants so that he could enjoy the sun and the butterflies. I'd sit at their feet, draw, and stage plays with dolls I made from hollyhock. My grandpa on my mom’s side was the first to buy a house in their undeveloped neighborhood and was in the newspaper for the local trees he grew. My favorite was a ginkgo tree that I climbed everyday after school until its yellow skirt dropped in the fall chill. My grandpa on my dad’s side sprinkled his garden with foxglove and tall flowers reminiscent of the gardens my grandma knew from her mother’s home country, Denmark.
My dad specifically is an excellent gardener and a gentle quiet spirit. It shows in his art, his plants. Volunteer trees that enter our family’s backyard in Indiana are looked after. Two of these are maples that landed as seedlings in the cracks of our wooden porch and now stand two to three stories high casting shade. My mom and I joke about the towering tulip tree he moved and replanted on our mailbox island out front and if its roots will burst through the concrete curb. He’s intent on sustaining life and has built this nature friendly ecosystem around our house free of fertilizer and full of trees and clover.
During the COVID lockdown I began making drawings of plants because I felt like nature was so powerful and that it could allow me to process the outside interpersonal world of people. Plants continued my previous motifs of heirlooms and sacred spaces of emotional revelation and elevation of the everyday. The heirloom tomatoes I carefully seeded on my Baltimore porch gave me hope and the smell of the leaves brought me home to my parents and their yard in the summer. Working with an ink ball point pen or felt tip pen felt freeing and removed my ability to overthink for a moment, I couldn’t erase-only move forward. At the same time, my drawing would develop through small movements while I worked through my thoughts on the state of the world and my life.
Recently, I’m revisiting the world, family legacy, shelter, medicine, metaphors, and power of plants coupled with the phenomenon of light and translucent petals. “Bloom” draws from studies I did of cosmos, echinacea, and black eyed susan plants in my dad’s garden as well as the flowers that my mom keeps in a vase in the kitchen. I went home this past September to Indiana and took time to walk with my dad through an updated “tour” on his garden and the season (the weather and our lives-loss and growth), which we do routinely whenever I’m home. This visit brought me to the series I’m developing that imagines what plants are doing when we’re not looking, worlds that kids or sensitive people playing in nature might discover. I hope this series helps connect people to the natural world but also back to themselves as observers and witnesses.
-Mimi Caroline Nov, 2023