TIFFANIE TURNER was born in 1970 in Colonie, NY and raised in the woods of New Hampshire. She received her Bachelor of Architecture from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in 1995 and worked as an architect for over 15 years before beginning her career as a botanical sculptor. She received a Zellerbach Family Grant award in 2016 to support her work as the May 2016 artist-in residence at the de Young Museum located in San Francisco, where she has resided for over 20 years.
Turner has had solo exhibitions at the Kimball Gallery at the de Young Museum, Tower Hill Botanical Garden in Boylston, MA, and Rare Device in San Francisco. Recent group exhibitions include “Flower Power” at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco, “Preternatural” at Jack Fischer Gallery in San Francisco, “Detritus” at San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art, and “Botanica” at Bedford Gallery in Walnut Creek, CA. She has been featured in Vogue, American Craft, O Magazine, LAB magazine, and the San Francisco Chronicle, and been noted online by Colossal, Squarespace presents HI-FRUCTOSE, My Modern Met, Design*Sponge, Elie Saab, and The Jealous Curator, among others.
Turner is an instructor in the art of paper flower making in the United States and beyond, and her first book, The Fine Art of Paper Flowers, will be released on Ten Speed Press on August 22, 2017. She is looking forward to her first solo exhibition with Eleanor Harwood Gallery at Minnesota Street Project in San Francisco in January 2019.
I am a botanical sculptor who depicts the appearance of different plants, mostly flowers, to some degree of accuracy, in paper, using both realism and preternaturally large, sometimes metastasized forms. My large works in paper study scale, texture (petals sometimes reading like feathers, or fur) and color. Each piece can take between 250-400 hours to complete. I work with the rhythms and patterns found in nature, as well as the missteps and irregularities caused by decay, rot, wilt, dormancy, death, and genetic and viral mutations like phyllody, petalody and fasciation. I like to bring the smallest things we take for granted or that might go unnoticed, like the shape of the smallest floret of a flower, right to the viewer’s face, when one may realize they never knew it at all.
My work is informed greatly by my knowledge of construction and how things are put together. I draw inspiration of process from artists such as Tom Friedman and Lee Bontecou, and inspiration of content by the beauty and distress found in our declining natural environment, as well as the paintings of 16th and 17th century Dutch master painters. My current work draws from these paintings in the following ways.
· Studying the variations on one flower from painter to painter. I have discovered missteps and new petal forms not known in nature created by the interpretation by the artist and the direction of a brush stroke. By enlarging these strange petals, they add an element of “non-realism” to my work without making the subject matter surreal.
· Presentation of flowers and other specimens from several seasons in one body of work.
· Focusing on garden roses and other blossoms in a deeply feminine way. Exploring the full, overt presentation of a flower’s center parts.
· Reexamining Vanitas: Vanity, emptiness, the traditional Christian view of earthly life and the worthless nature of all earthly goods and pursuits, which seem more than ever to be turned on its head. I do this through the use of decay, rot and wilt in my work.
· Studying current environmental effects and distress to plant life, potentially creating tension for the viewer between the beauty of the piece and the cause of its distressed state.
· Creating wilting and fading pieces that express the beauty in a “fading beauty”. As a middle aged woman who somehow let her beautiful years slip away without acknowledging them, and as a burlesque performer who has controversially never bought into the idea of body positivity, I am challenged now to hang onto the shred of what I once looked like while trying to accept my appearance now. Accepting “beautiful on the inside” is difficult. Exploring the beauty of the form and color of a wilting or rotting bloom is an exercise for the viewer (and myself) in seeing the value of something, or someone (self), who is past their prime. I like to find and test the tolerance of this “new vanitas” in art by the public.
· Document plant life, specifically the heads of flowers, as they appear now in this age, before whatever happens next.
Why Flowers, Why Large Scale
Flowers draw us closer so we can smell them and look pretty so we want to propagate them. They are dynamic on the stem and in the vase, changing with the season or by the day, here one month then gone for the next eleven. This work is accessible, in that we all understand what a flower is, but when enlarged, everything around the piece grows. The amusement, the wonder, as in “Wow!”, but also as in “What happened here?”. Memories are triggered. The mystery and story develop, and the viewer is almost always compelled to talk about what their relationship to the natural world is, or share their personal memories, or talk about our urgency of our threatened environment.