lights camera sound actions | time-based contemporary art

Breath of Life artist’s statement

It seems our culture favours incoherence between ourselves and nature, and to comment on this I have been working with images of the body in nature.  Most recently I have used an image of the heart and lungs; the heart being the traditional seat of the emotions and the lungs being that which draws the breath of life.  In this garden, a steel trellis incorporating the shape of a heart and lungs will eventually be en wined with flowering vines.  The rest of the garden’s plants have associations with either the heart or lungs of a medicinal, historical, literary or mythological nature.

The rose has a long association with matters of the heart and in the 13th century romance, Roman de la Rose, it is a symbol of perfect love.   Possibly that rose was R. gallica, which is known to have been in cultivation since the 12th century B.C. The Doctrine of Signatures, a medical system that arose in the late 1500’s, was based on the idea that plants gave physical signs of the parts of the human body they healed; therefore, the spots of Pulmonaria indicated its ability to heal tubercular lungs.   In the 16th century, John Gerard wrote that borage makes “men and women glad and merry, driving away all sadness and dullness” and gillyflowers (Dianthus caryophyllus) “comfort the heart”.

proposal drawing

proposal drawing

In the late 1700’s, British doctors warned of suffocating effluvia from flowers and scientific experiments documented that honeysuckle (Lonicera) could foul three pints of air in three hours of daylight and kill sleeping people.  Across the Atlantic, Lonicera sp. was used by the Chippewa and Iroquois for lung ailments. The bark of the native white pine (P. strobus) is still used by herbalists for lung ailments as it has been for centuries by Iroquois and Delaware healers.

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