“Whether wild or clipped, composed of curved lines or straight, living plants or plastic, every garden is a product of natural phenomena and human artifice. It is impossible to make a garden without expressing, however unconsciously, ideas about nature”
-Anne Whiston Spurn, from The Authority of Nature: Conflict and Confusion in Landscape Architecture
I feel conflicted by my perception of natural beauty. I get a fuzzy feeling every time I see a palm tree, and I almost cried the first time I saw a crystal clear, teal-blue ocean. Yet, I have felt disappointment when a place is not as beautiful or “authentic” as my imagination had promised. My tendencies to romanticize nature have been shaped by the idealized landscapes, manufactured to fit within our lifestyles. A manufactured Eden is a marriage of beauty and convenience – devoid of the inconvenience of bugs, poverty and decay. My first exposure to an idealized landscape was Disneyworld – a former swamp transformed into a tropical paradise. By rendering the uninhabitable to suit our aesthetic pleasures, Disney promised an ideal environment free from worry or inconvenience, thus altering my understanding of the natural world.
We have a history of misunderstanding natural landscapes. There is no way to truly restore the landscape of the past. In Nature by Design, Eric Higgs writes, “restoration is fundamentally a design practice,” where human intentionality applied to natural objects creates artifacts. Attempts at restoration reflect our culture. Ultimately, our economic and cultural values are imprinted on the ecosystem.
My work illustrates a blown-out vision of the natural world. I manufacture plant life and structures to create an artifact, which reflects my own romantic tendencies towards tropical miscellany – a sick-sweet version influenced by nature’s most beautiful and repulsive qualities. Through processes such as electroforming, molding, casting, and painting, natural objects are reprogrammed. Each piece represents an aspect of natural artifice I have encountered in my life; such as fake waterfalls plastered into backyard pools, lush atriums planted in industrial complexes, and shopping centers built to look like quaint villages.