This series of reduction woodcut prints investigates our relationship with the environment in the form of insects. Insects generate both fear and fascination; they evoke nightmares and the intricacies of biology.
For my work, I chose insect pests that I am familiar with from growing up in Pennsylvania. Viewers who have encountered these insects and will react based on their memories and associations with the bugs. I am interested in two aspects of the insect: its creepy, nightmare-inducing quality, and its role as a desirable design.
Humans are both terrified and fascinated by nature, and seek evermore permanent ways of controlling and shaping the world around us. “Creepy-crawlies” are a source of fear and frustration, and a nuisance in our daily lives. In my prints, I create multiples to echo our fear of being overrun by things beyond our control.
Nature is also a constant source of inspiration and beauty, which is often translated into decoration. In this series I emphasize the design elements of insects using repetition and color. These creatures are colorful, dynamic, and visually enticing. These patterns easily lend themselves to fashion and design. Butterflies and ladybugs are seen as “cute” designs to decorate our clothes and accessories—why not other insects?
The New New York Ecology July 2018
This summer I devoted some time to making my garden look “pretty.” Gardening is supposed to be a relaxing and beautifying hobby. I began to learn the names and properties of native plants as well as the flowers I was trying to cultivate. But also, I started to notice a lack of readily available information about the plants that I found at chain retailers, other than optimal planting location and suggestions for fertilization and pest control. Would this attractive vine invade my foundation? Would it spread and out-compete native food sources? Is it toxic to pets and livestock, or treated with pesticides that kill bees? It would be easy not to follow up on these questions, and even easier not to ask them in the first place.
At the same time, I noticed some unfamiliar, yellow-topped plants growing along the roadside. With a quick internet search, I can identify those as Wild Parsnips — an invasive plant that can cause burns and scars, but is less dangerous than Giant Hogweed. Once you are aware of them, suddenly they’re everywhere. As children, we are warned about poison ivy and poison sumac, but otherwise, New York is a safe state in terms of plants and animals. That could be changing, as the conditions are right for invasive species to multiply, and the plants in this series can have significant impacts on those who come into contact with them.
A changing ecology is not new, as many of the plants that we are familiar with were at one time introduced from Europe. Sometimes these invaders arrive unintentionally, “escape cultivation,” or are dispersed as seeds. Many of these were brought to our locality as ornamental plants, by those ignorant or careless of the consequences. In Historical Parallel, you will see plants that were considered invasive in the 1800s: these plants are still very much a part of our landscape. At least when it comes to gardening these days, we have information at our fingertips and the ability to back decisions with scientific research.
These screen prints are my first steps toward gathering and making sense of data related to this changed ecosystem. My goal with this series is to present these invasive life forms along with facts about their origins, identification, and dangers. These plants appear visually appealing—they can be taken at face value, or invite deeper thought—viewers who have had personal experiences with these plants may have different reactions.
Information for this series was gathered from the National Invasive Species Council, New York Invasive Species Information, Center for Invasive Species and Ecosystem Health, New York DEC, EPA, and the CDC websites.