The Flower That Sprouted From a Book
Sculptural botany, self-governing trees and more Rootbound clippings
I walked into Phipps Conservatory last week and was immediately drawn to a display of flowers bursting out of a pile of books. It was striking. I wondered how all the flowers were looking so fresh. Were they changing them out every few days?
As I got closer, I was shocked to discover that these flowers and leaves hadn’t been picked and arranged. They were shaped from paper. These hydrangeas and roses and orchids and water lilies were crafted from pages pulled out of gardening and plant textbooks.
Lisa Meeks, an artist from Ohio, created this exhibit that’s currently on display in the Phipps Welcome Center. As Meeks explains:
I am a lover of books, so please forgive me. I have torn their pages, and I have cut their bindings. I lightly paint the pages on both sides to create the colors and tones needed for each plant and flower. I want enough print to remain visible so the origin is remembered. I crease, fold, twist and coax the pages to become something new.
One of my favorite pieces is a patch of “weedy” flowers – dandelions and white clover busting out of a textbook titled Practical Manual of Land. As Meeks writes in her artist statement:
From weeds to invasive plants and insects we are all interconnected. It's essential that we change how we approach gardening to embrace sustainable native species and care that we leave enough natural land areas for all humans and nonhuman beings. I want to draw people in to look closely and connect with my work.
Lisa Meeks’ collection of sculptures, titled BiblioBotany, is on display at Phipps until March 12th.
I’m trying out something new this week where once a month I’ll send out a shorter newsletter accompanied by links to other plant-related content I’ve enjoyed recently. I’m calling it Rootbound Clippings, and this is the first installment.
Here are those links:
• For this year’s Carnegie International exhibition, a German collective known as Terra0 created a unique horticultural installation. They planted a black gum tree on Pittsburgh’s North Side and then established a 501(c)4 nonprofit corporation called Pittsburgh Lobby for Tree Personhood. The organization will work to attain personhood for the tree so that it can essentially own itself. It’s a bit confusing, but this story from WESA does a pretty good job of explaining it.
• This story by Margaret Roach in the NY Times made me feel better about all the impulse seed purchases I’ve been making. As Roach writes, “go ahead and let the catalogs’ vivid descriptions and photographs seduce you into trying something unfamiliar.”
• I really enjoyed this piece byof in which she revisits a 1928 houseplant guide that was passed down from her grandfather.
• Dr. Jared Barnes wrote this delightful and thoughtful piece about coming up with a name for his small Texas garden. As he explains:
We name things to be able to talk about them, even gardens. James Golden has Federal Twist, Stephanie Cohen has Shortwood Gardens, Jimmy Williams has Tennessee Dixter (a play off Christopher Lloyd’s Great Dixter), Andrew Bunting has Belvidere, and Vita Sackville-West had Sissinghurst. With a name, a story can be told.
Have you read anything interesting about plants or gardening recently? I’d love to hear about it.
And one more thing: Every week I post a new video to NEXTpittsburgh as part of the Yinzer Backstage Pass series where I go behind the scenes of different Pittsburgh organizations. This past week we filmed an episode in the backstage greenhouses at Phipps Conservatory.
I got a tour from a head of their production greenhouses as well as the manager of their orchid collection. I’ll be sharing that here in a few weeks.
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I’ve been buying old gardening books. Used and online. Famous, or obscure but mentioned as inspiration by the authors of the “old” books. Old being, in most cases, written from the 1950s to the early sixties. It’s a look into a different world really. I highly recommend anything by Henry Mitchell but “The Essential Earthman” is a fine start. Nothing is better to just open at random and be inspired to get going on those projects you’ve been neglecting.
Love when artists put an inspirational twist on a traditional idea!