One element of my work that has clearly influenced my work is the lush, tropical plant life of Florida. I have used the lush patterns and colors to influence my work and think about the poeticism of nature and women.
For many years, art history has tied women and nature together. While writing my thesis, I acknowledged this tradition in my work by incorporating the female form within nature and interacting with it.
Instead of the woman being surveyed in nature, I imagine the plants cover and integrate the figure so that it becomes half human-half plant. I imagine what it would be like if these plant-humans were made of invasive species, such as kudzu or hydrilla, and were reclaiming their space within the landscape from their human oppressors. Nature has been associated with feminine language. For example, the term “Mother Nature” suggests the earth is maternal. Since women are seen as nature, they are seen as unruly, wild, and needing to be tamed. Women are seen as something to use and exploit in the same fashion as nature.
Sherry Ortner states in her 1974 article, “Is Female to Male as Nature is to Culture” that men are considered a part of “culture” or technology and innovation, while women are considered a part of nature. She says, “Since its always culture’s project to subsume and transcend nature, if women were considered part of nature, then culture would find it ‘natural’ to subordinate, not to say oppress them.”
Because nature has traditionally been equated to womanhood, it justifies its oppression, subordination, and devaluation. Playing with this idea, I cover the women in aggressive, invasive plant species that make both woman and plant become even more powerful, uncontrollable, and monstrous. This creates a monstrosity of the plant-covered women as they are no longer pure human, nor pure plant.
In my work, “Con Los Ojos Tristes” and “Kudzu People” the figures covered in pink and green kudzu emerge from the wild, natural landscapes with sinister poses. These figures are both covered and protected from the outside world. Invasive plants, like kudzu, have the ability to protect a moment in time and can overtake their land once more, similar to the plants that have covered the now uninhabited city of Chornobyl. By creating a monstrosity of women covered in invasive plant species, I subvert the misogynistic attitude that women need to be tamed and controlled-or beholden. In the work, they become empowered by these plants and reclaim their space. “Con Los Ojos Tristes” and “Kudzu People” embrace hybrid monstrosity as a kind of agential power.
As of now, I am transforming these nature scenes from plants to seaweed, rocks, and now fruits. Florida has been such an amazing landscape to really dive deep into research and I’m still finding more and more inspiration.