Plant Cure / Brooklyn Botanic Garden
(Extended until December 15, 2021)
Brooklyn Botanic Garden Conservatory Gallery
990 Washington Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11225
March 3 – November 15, 2020
(temporarily closed due to coronavirus until further notice)
Opening Celebration: March 3rd
Plant Cure / Brooklyn
Humanities Gallery/ LIU Brooklyn
1 University Plaza
Brooklyn, NY 11201
September 3 – December 13, 2019
Opening Reception: September 4
*Artists In Residence / Brooklyn Botanic Garden and Library
Steinhardt Conservatory Gallery
1000 Washington Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11225
March 3 – November 15, 2020
Exhibition of the Five Artists in Residence:
The Plant Cure project began in 2017 with a collaboration of CENTRAL BOOKING and the New York Academy of Medicine in which five Artists in Residence researched their work at NYAM for an exhibition in CENTRAL BOOKING’s Lower East Side space. Various documentation of their process was also displayed in vitrines in the NYAM library at the end of their research. Fourteen additional artists with work on the theme of medicinal plants were curated into the CENTRAL BOOKING exhibition and were involved with event programming as well. But Plant Cure was meant to be a project that literally grew from place to place to incorporate more artists, institutions, and collections into a connective thread, with each additional collaboration involving new work while evolving the work of past participants. Brooklyn Botanic Garden seemed to be the ideal next location for the project, a childhood place of exploration for Maddy Rosenberg, the curator and project organizer of CENTRAL BOOKING.
In February 2019, Desirée Alvarez, Agnes Murray, Amanda Thackray and James Walsh joined Maddy Rosenberg as Artists in Residence at Brooklyn Botanic Garden and began the research to produce work for Plant Cure/Brooklyn. They were given ongoing free access to the collections of the library as well as full rein to explore the gardens for five months. These artists were chosen for their distinctive and varied approaches to source material, the work revealing their own individual takes on the subject of medicinal plants. The Brooklyn Botanic Garden has its own history as a place of healing. Within its walls, whether it be as a warm sanctuary of research of its library during the cold winter months or the ability to follow the growth and paths from hibernation to full bloom of the plants of choice, the artists delved deeply. This process and research will be emphasized later in an exhibition in the Conservatory Gallery at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, scheduled for the spring of 2019.
For the exhibition at the unique glass enclosed Humanities Gallery, one that itself emulates a conservatory, a selection of the final work resulting from the residencies of these artists joins a conversation with the work from ten artists from the original project: Cynthia Back, C Bangs, Marisa Benjamim, Margot Glass,Tessa Grundon, James Martin, Susan Rostow, Sarah Stengle, Kate Temple, and Mary Ting.
The installations of Desirée Alvarez are where the poet and visual artist meet in a layering of space, as each discrete cloth page informs the next. C Bangs combines fragments of text with carefully painted images, as she further explores her interest in the abortifacient properties of more plants than imagined, while the handmade instrument of Sarah Stengle plays a sweet rue-ful melody even when it stands on display, as it, too, works in a similar way to coax nature. James Walsh’s delicate portrayals of Sassafras through pressed and mounted specimens, delves into the history of its varied drug and medicinal uses with a juxtaposition of the accounts of specialists and early explorers. But it is Marisa Benjamim in the television version of her “restaurant” who serves plant based food that is not only good for you, but is a tasty treat.
Kate Temple has given herself a yearly task of accumulating plant and mineral life that she treads on, spreading them into a random circle and interpreting them keenly. The skill of Margot Glass to portray the delicacy of plants is more than mere rendering, she elicits a fascination for each petal and leaf from us equal to her own. Cynthia Back’s carved panels form more than a lovely decorative floral border as a deeper purpose is embedded, as the prints of James Martin also hang vertically, mimicking the body that is its source material, while engaging us with its rich combinations of body and plants entwined. Tessa Grundon hangs streams of the unwanted plant foreigners, indicative of the invasive species innocently brought over to the continent within the medicine cabinets of immigrants, as an echo of the politics of today. For Amanda Thackray, the winding honeysuckle plant more literally evokes a narrative of medicinal help in an invasive species, one that stems from her childhood. Mary Ting explores the dark industry behind the luxury botanical medicine whose rarity is ironically leading towards its own extinction.
The sculptures of Agnes Murray have been inspired by the 19th century scientific plant models used for study purposes to formulate her own aesthetically appealing variations. Maddy Rosenberg’s quest was to connect with indigenous plants of Brooklyn to shed light on curative properties of both plant and place, with lantern slides growing into the shadows of a lantern artist’s book. Susan Rostow, in her determination to combine a recent foray into animation with her sculptural book objects, finds a solution natural to her by making it just another mushrooming collage element.
And though we may enjoy the aesthetics and the fragrances of many of these plants studied, explored and reinterpreted in the many dimensions of art, there is much beneath the beauty. Ever present is the knowledge of the danger that, depending on the dose: what can cure, can also kill.
Plant Cure is sponsored, in part, by the Greater New York Arts Development Fund of the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, administered by Brooklyn Arts Council (BAC).