What Befell Us
Eleanor Harwood Gallery
Minnesota Street Project
1275 Minnesota Street
San Francisco, CA
April 19 - June 15, 2019
Full exhibition catalogue:
What Befell Us is my first solo show with Eleanor Harwood Gallery, and is a new body of large-scale botanical sculpture created over the past eight months. This new work, the heads of seven giant flowers, is a continued meditation on our tolerance of aging and imperfection, on what we consider ugly and what we consider beautiful, and on the high cost of these pursuits on our society and the natural environment.
I selected these floral specimens and the afflictions to depict with them from a vast variety of flowers that appeal to me due to form, texture and color. I then paired them with physical manifestations of imperfection, drawing from aging and deformities in plant life. The deteriorations evoke issues of climate change, from the effects of rising temperatures on pollen quality, to drought, to damage to blossoms due to earlier and later frosts, all caused by rapid environmental shifts, but not all immediately evident on the heads of flowers.
While I was researching these afflictions, I began to turn inward, drawing parallels and connections between our global climate crisis and my concerns about the value and perception of women’s faces and bodies as they age. The damaged goods of both aging women and flawed flowers ask the question “What Befell Us” at a personal and global scope. To quote Eleanor, “Turner’s investigations quite literally blow up the idea that damage is un-lovely. Her sculptures are undeniably exquisite, the products of intense labor, each head sculpted from hundreds (or thousands) of hand-shaped petals.”
I truly started to question, “Why do we wrap our most perishable fruits and vegetables in packaging that will pollute the planet for thousands of years?” and “Why did I become invisible when I turned 40, and at what lengths would I go to to turn back time?”. The parallels between the absurd pursuits of our culture that destroys our environment, and the absurd expectations I feel as a woman in this world became painfully obvious. I wondered, “Why am I starting to feel ashamed to be older?” and “Why do people find my distorted and decayed flowers lovely, but find my own dry and sun damaged skin (the result of a full childhood) unsightly? Could this ever change?”.
The pieces in this exhibit depict what ugly, old, or abnormal would look like in the beautiful head of a flower. Some of the pieces are obviously decaying. Some are distorted by age and desiccation. One piece, a rose, arguably the planet’s sexiest flower, is sagging toward the floor, prolapsed as if its most private parts cannot be contained anymore. “Platinum Blonde”, a giant dahlia, is very irregular around the outer petals, as it grows in nature. It is vulgar in size, imperfect in silhouette, yet beautiful. Says Eleanor, “The oddity of Turner’s approach is that the discoloration, the non-perfect becomes enchanting, arguing for an acceptance of expressions of age, wilts, and mutations in the flowers and our own bodies.”
The flowers in this show continue to explore these concepts. There are all the ideas of vanitas, of the temporary nature OF nature, the feeling of being youthful inside of an aging exterior. If I have learned one thing over the five years I have been making and exhibiting this work is that everyone has their own relationship to flowers, and that they open up myriad conversations, from memories of your grandmother’s garden to stories about the pesticide your next door neighbor is using on his dandelions. They remind you of Jay Defeo’s “The Rose” and they make you want to talk about the work of Georgia O’Keefe or Willem van Aelst. You will want to show me the silk flowers you make with vintage heat tools and open up your portfolio so I can see your photos of dead birds. For me, each of these flowers tells tales about changes to our climate on one level, and about my fading femininity on another, but they are still wide open and rife for interpretation, which I welcome with open arms.