When I first moved to Texas in August of 2012, I noticed that there was an overwhelming amount of Oleander used as decorative shrubbery. My noticing of this came from my habit of seeing and marking contrasts in new environments. Since I was a young, I always relished going to different places for the new bits of knowledge it offered me. As I grew into a working artist, this inclination ultimately allowed for the seeking out of fresh visual and conceptual inspiration or, in some cases, cautionary strategies from the information I collected. My materialization of comparisons, whether language, culture, nature (human and earthly), emotion or physical substances, renews my methodology of experiential research; my art, derived from my marking of contrasts is the manifestation of my empirical knowledge. I am not a hoarder of this information. The content of my art and style of university level teaching throughout the years exhibits this fact very well.
However, in the case of the Oleander and the plants presented in this new body of work, I am not presenting myself as a plant aficionado. As a matter of fact, I am the total opposite. I have a “black thumb;” I tend to leave behind a graveyard of empty terracotta pots holding the sad remains of root systems and traces of crusty potting soil. I knew about Oleander. I know how it is metaphorically used in a literature to describe a beautiful woman who is extremely toxic, and that it is in fact a deadly plant. I just had no idea how much of it would surround me on a day-to-day basis living in Houston. A bush of it lurks in the courtyard of my apartment complex in this hustling city, a constant reminder of attraction and repulsion.
This collection of images expresses the physical prowess of the plants and the idea of attraction and repulsion thorough a variation of art media. I focus on the visual elements that create an attraction to each plant, whether it is the alluring colors, the intoxicating shape of leaves or delicate line quality within the outline of the bloom that produces the seed that could rot the gut of a grazing cow in fifteen minutes.
The comparison I exhibit in these works is between the innate beauty in nature (physical as in the plants and human nature that desires to be surrounded by beautiful things) and the actuality of its toxicity. While the images intentionally illustrate and glorify the toxic plants, the work relates to and contrasts with our base attraction to beautiful things, while as a whole body of work I use it to promote caution. My empirical research proves that the affectation of one seeking fulfilling pleasure through beauty alone, will only stir repulsion, if not the death of one’s soul. The quest to fulfill one’s life with beauty without nourishing substance is typically derived from one’s lack of knowledge followed by poor judgment or denying the existence of danger that waits below the surface of what we consider beautiful.