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 "Beyond the Bouquet" at Descanso Garden's Sturt Haaga Gallery in Southern California, "Flora" at the Cornell Art Museum in Delray Beach, FL, “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 the New York Times Book Review, Sunset Magazine, Vogue, American Craft, O Magazine, LAB magazine, and the San Francisco Chronicle, and been noted online by Vice Creator's Project, Architectural Digest, 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, was released on Ten Speed Press in August 2017. She is looking forward to her first solo exhibition with Eleanor Harwood Gallery at Minnesota Street Project in San Francisco in early 2019.
I am forever moved by the specimens found in nature, the dynamism of a flower on the stem and in the vase, changing with the season or by the day, here one month then gone for the next eleven. Through my work, teaching, and public residencies, I have learned that the familiarity and accessibility of flowers and plants allows an “easy in” for people, and when the viewer is not afraid of the subject matter, it opens up numerous conversations. Using the accessible nature of botany, I want to continue to have these dialogues to test the limits of our tolerance of fading beauty, of human vanity, human compassion and human caused destruction, and to tell stories of the state of our environment.
My sculptures depict the appearance of different plants, mostly the heads of flowers, to some degree of accuracy, in paper, using both realism and preternaturally large, sometimes metastasized forms. Through my works in paper I 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 wonderful gestures formed by missteps and irregularities in nature like 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 them at all.
My work is informed greatly by my knowledge as an architect 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. I am forever studying the paintings of 16th and 17th century Dutch master painters, the botanical work of Charles Rennie Mackintosh, and the bizarre and repulsive yet undeniably masterful work of contemporary painter Christian Rex Van Minnen.
It is too simple to just say I want to use my work to depict the “new vanitas”, as the world is fraught as much as ever with the destructive nature of discovery, conquest, and capitalism. It spreads so far and wide, through our disappearing environments, and comes too close to home with our medical afflictions, continued societal oppressions and shocking violence. But I can use the asymmetrical movement of an inexplicably large and somehow distressed or deformed head of a flower to tell some tales of the beauty and transience, of life, and the perfect, gigantic head of a flower to offer some hope, too.
Top photo by Aya Brackett.