"The preternatural (from the Latin præter and naturae) is that which appears outside or beyond the normal and natural. In theology, the term preternatural is often used to distinguish marvels or deceptive trickery, often attributed to witchcraft or demons, from the divine and sacred power of the genuinely supernatural. Upon the arrival of early modern science, the concept of the preternatural was used to refer to abnormalities and strange phenomena that seemed to transgress the working laws of nature, but which were not associated with magic or witchcraft. The terms preternatural and supernatural originally acquired distinct definitions within the ancient religious movement of Gnosticism, but have been since incorrectly equated as interchangeable phrases.
Pre-12th Century Gnostics distinguished between the natural, the preternatural, and the supernatural. Natural describes all that belongs to the material world and adheres to strict physical and scientific laws. Preternatural is the action that goes beyond the structure of the nature of the material universe. Supernatural is the action that goes beyond any created nature, belonging only to the divine.
The photographic and sculptural work in this exhibition falls within the preternatural, occupying space and time suspended between the mundane and the miraculous. Depicting and embodying flora, fauna, and landscape that appear to exist beyond the natural, the exhibition also comments on a number of pressing issues of our time, from global warming and rising sea levels, to genetic mutation and bioengineering, to survival and adaptation."
Exhibit photography courtesy of Scott Chernis.
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.
My second ever three-day paper flower retreat with wonderful Ali DeJohn of The Makerie was held at Lone Hawk Farm just outside of Boulder, Colorado in late October 2018. Our group of fourteen included several returning students and other talented paper flower makers, and we had what I thought to be a lovely time working away on double daffodils, faded coral charm peonies, English roses, pom pom poppies, foliage, and moth orchids. I loved this retreat so very much, and hope to return to Lone Hawk Farm in the future.
Sign up for The Makerie’s mailing list here to keep up to date on our 2019 retreat offerings on the east coast and Europe.
My very first three-day paper flower retreat with wonderful Ali DeJohn of The Makerie was held at the private studio of Fran Meneley (At Hand Studio) in October 2018 in Boulder, Colorado. What a wonderful time with eleven students, working through a difficult curriculum and learning a lot about each other in the process. This format of teaching is new to me, and I hope that my teaching style and expectations will evolve over each retreat to find the perfect balance of technical (and philosophical) learning combined with the freedom for students to use what they’ve learned for more freeform work. I had a great time and will never forget the people I met and got to know over these three days.
Sign up for The Makerie’s mailing list here to keep up to date on our 2019 retreat offerings on the east coast and Europe.
THE BOTANICAL BIBLE by Sonya Patel Ellis is a delightful book which was released this fall (2018) on Abrams Books. This book is arranged to help you “design, grow, develop and celebrate your own inspired version of the botanical world”. I love this book so much, and am so delighted to be included in the same spread as my botanical heroes, glass artists Leopold and Rudolf Blaschka. (See pages 374-375.) I highly encourage you to keep a copy of this book in your library for constant reference. You can find it here or at your local bookstore, I’m sure.
While I shot the hundreds of tutorial photos in the book, the cover and all of the gorgeous, full page images were taken by the wonderful Aya Brackett. Here is just a small sampling of them.
You can order The Fine Art of Paper Flowers from the online retailers listed HERE, or anywhere fine books are sold.
These photos from the book are copyright Aya Brackett 2017.
In September 2018 I was part of a panel of seven speakers from many fields of design invited by the Society for Experiential Graphic Design to speak at the Steelcase showroom in San Francisco about biophilia, our innate need to connect with the natural world. I chose to talk about the relationship between representational art and biophilia. A link to my portion of the evening can be found HERE.
I offer instruction, demonstrations and workshops in the Bay Area and beyond. Currently the best way to stay up-to-date on my offerings is to watch for announcements on my Instagram, or check the schedules at Handcraft Studio School and Filoli where I teach regularly, as well as at The Makerie, who I travel with to different locations for longer retreats.
Workshop photo on main website page taken by Heather Saunders.
Upcoming classes include the following:
Faded Coral Charm peonies
May 18, 2019
Olde Orchard Farm Makerie Retreat
June 22-25, 2019
Chateau Dumas Makerie Retreat
September 7-14, 2019
Jupiter Artland one-day class
September 16, 2019
In the summer of 2017, five of my large scale pieces were installed at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco, as part of their "Flower Power" exhibit. This exhibit featured ancient works as well as pieces by contemporary artists.
From the museum's website:
During the Summer of Love, flowers became powerful symbols of peace, a concept plucked from Buddhist art. More than merely decorative, floral imagery has helped convey ideas from the refined to the revolutionary for thousands of years.
In Asian art, flowers speak a language all their own. Where a lotus blooms, a rosebud is clasped, or cherry blossoms flutter to the ground, a story is told — if you know how to read it.
This summer, uncover the hidden meanings of flowers in Asian art. Delve into the symbolism of six significant blooms: the lotus, plum blossom, cherry blossom, chrysanthemum, tulip, and rose. The enduring importance of these flowers is shared through gloriously gilded screens, sleek lacquers, rare porcelains, striking sculptures, pop art, and sensory-igniting, participatory contemporary installations that speak to today’s issues, from climate change to social activism.
Nature Constructed was a public project and exhibition of my work in the Kimball Education Gallery at the de Young Museum for the month of May 2016. I was available to speak with gallery visitors each day about my work and theirs, and invited them to assist me in creating a giant, rotting ranunculus.
Exhibit photos by Randy Dodson, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.
Cornell Art Museum at Old School Square
51 N. Swinton Ave.
Delray Beach, FL
March 29 - September 23, 2018
This group exhibition of contemporary artwork incorporating themes inspired by the goddess of springtime, fertility, and flowers was curated by Cornell Art Museum's Melanie Johanson. It included a wonderful range of artists and media. I exhibited one small scale work in the show titled Carnations (and other flowers).
I am in discussions with Cornell Art Museum for a future collaboration, hopefully in 2020.
A sampling of recent press and articles. Please refer to my artist CV for the most current list.
Press inquiries can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
My studio portrait was taken by the incredible Aya Brackett.
I just need to tell you, I really do love roses.
Nearly as exciting as my own book, I have been included, along with 45 other artists, in the wonderful Janine Vangool's fantastic encyclopedia of botanical art, design, and ephemera titled Botanica. This book is 448 pages of botanical goodness. My work and a wonderfully in depth interview are featured on pages 286-293 under the heading "Paper". A real honor to be included. This book is a beautiful tome and a must have for flower and plant enthusiasts. You can order here.
Here's more from Janine:
"Flowers and plants have long been a muse of artists and craftspeople. Personally, I can trace my career in graphic design and publishing to a childhood interest in botany and horticulture. I used to cut out photographs of flowers and vegetables from the seed catalogues that arrived in the mail and paste them in new layouts of my own making in tiny notebooks. And although I had my own little garden plot and earned a few ribbons at the local children’s gardening competition, I realized that my true love wasn’t for the hard, dirty work involved in growing vegetables (although it is satisfying to get earthy now and again)—it was an appreciation for the beauty of the plants themselves. Sketching flowers from life and collaging pictures of plants in a scrapbook was what I enjoyed most. In a simple and organic way, led by a genuine curiosity, I had discovered illustration and design. And for the many creative and enterprising people profiled within the pages of Botanica, an infatuation with florals informed their art, careers and businesses. I’ve also included some historical sources and botanical ephemera, illustrating that we have an evergreen fascination with all things floral. Arranged alphabetically by eclectic topics, Botanica collects a veritable mixed bouquet of art, illustration and stories of botanically inclined lifestyles. Perhaps they will help sow the seeds for your own creativity!"
Beyond the Bouquet
Sturt Haaga Gallery
1418 Descanso Drive
La Cañada Flintridge, CA
January 22 - April 22, 2018
I am delighted to have contributed two works to Beyond the Bouquet. For Shame (2015), my large scale wilting peony, and a newer piece, The Ends, to Beyond the Bouquet at the Sturt Haaga Gallery at Descanso Gardens in the winter of 2018.
From curator Cristeen Martinez:
For millennia, people have brought plants and flowers indoors for their pleasure, tradition and even health. When flowers are removed from their natural surroundings and repurposed into bouquets and flower arrangements, gardening evolves beyond a practical skill into the realm of art-making. Beyond the Bouquet highlights this art-making tradition as it explores the newest trends.
In this exhibition, both local and international artists experiment with concepts of nature, two and three-dimensional creations, an "alternative concept of beauty" and the blurred line between art and craft using a wide variety of media.
First image: Ambrosius Bosschaert the Elder, Rebecca Louise Law and Tom Hartford
Third image: Portrait in Descanso's brochure taken by Aya Brackett
Fourth image: My piece, The Ends, courtesy of Cathy Callahan
A collaboration with photographer Sarah Deragon. Shot in Marx Meadow, located in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park, in the spring of 2014. Conceived of as an introduction to "Heads", my first solo exhibit of large scale pieces at Rare Device in May 2014. I use this type of photo of myself frequently, usually shot by my son or daughter, to mark the expressiveness of each large scale flower before exhibiting it. They have become a sort of "meme" around the globe, with many other flower makers following suit. Find a collection of these types of photographs here.
A sampling of my small scale works. I share my process and progress of these pieces when I am working on them on my Instagram page.
For me, there are few more expressive or forgiving pursuits in the art of paper flower making than to create dead, dying, decaying, wilting, or deformed flowers. The movement in the collapsing head of a wilting specimen eclipses the sometimes stagnant rhythm of the face of a fresher flower. There is much left to discover here, with a world of subject matter and environmental issues to study, from simple rot to abnormal conditions like fasciation, phyllody and petalody, to the effects of our ever-changing environment on plant life.
These are some of my favorite specimens to create, in both small and large scales. I am looking to build a new body of work to exhibit in 2018 that will partially focus on dead paper flowers and the reasons why they are "dead".
Deep toward the end of shooting my book in winter of 2016, I was asked by Tolleson creative agency to be part of a booklet they were producing for Gmund Paper. At first, in my exhaustion, I thought I was being asked to work with their paper. But in fact, these photos were taken to then print onto Gmund's paper, showing how beautifully the paper responds to print images and text.
Shot in our flat on a stormy December morning by the incredible Eric Einwiller and his team, I am so happy to have my flowers captured in this manner. The brochure also features two other female artists located in the Bay Area, Heather Day and Aoi Yamaguchi, so I am in excellent company.
Link to the full campaign here.
November 3, 2017
I am home and recovered from the incredible experience of being on the road, teaching and talking about my work and my book. I have so much gratitude for everyone who showed up for me across the country. It furthered my belief that there is something more than just paper flowers going on here. Thank you to everyone who came out, and everyone who supported me along the way! xo
I am so excited to announce the 2017 leg of my book tour! I am being hosted by six incredible venues across the country, and it's going to be a lot of fun. This tour is going to be bonkers and a real adventure for me. I cannot wait to share The Fine Art of Paper Flowers with you all! Here are the details:
San Francisco Bay Area folks, please be sure to come out to Rare Device on Divisadero in S.F. for my big party blow out on September 8th, and my artist talk and demo at The Gardens at Heather Farm in Walnut Creek on September 14th.
I'll be in Los Angeles at wonderful French General on September 16th for two workshops and an early afternoon book signing. These workshops are already sold out, but I'll be back, and please come to the signing, I'd love to meet you! Then I head to Detroit for a day of workshops and a book signing with my friends of Flower House Detroit and Pot and Box on September 23rd, followed by a day of workshops and a signing with the lovely folks of Colossal in Chicago on September 26th. SO EXCITED! To cap it all off, please meet me in NYC for a book party September 29th and two workshops on September 30th at esteemed FlowerSchool NY. xoxoxo!
Photo of me sweating and signing books by the wonderful Heather Saunders.
In late 2014, UK-based Simone Webb and I collaborated on a series of four images, using photographs of my large scale work taken at different angles.
Although working in different mediums, different scales and different countries, Simone and I have one element in common; our subject matter. Flora are at the center of both of our works, inevitably forging an exploration into the difference in scale and mediums. In these pieces, Simone strayed away from her practice of exploring the transitionary states that occur in nature to embrace the delicate and still beauty of my giant, intricate paper flowers. By scaling these large blooms back down to a size manageable on the printed page, Simone was able to capture them in a way their original three-dimensional, oversized state never would have allowed. We worked together to find the tension and balance in these compositions, which were executed by Simone in her UK studio.
Influenced by my East Coast upbringing and appreciation of botany, I invited both emerging and well-known artists from the U.S., Canada and abroad in to study ideas of botanical life forms in their wintery states of hardening, dormancy and decay. The show hung in January 2015 at Rare Device in San Francisco, and featured ten artists working in a variety of styles and mediums, including collage, pen and ink, textiles, linoleum block printing, ceramics, and more.
Promotional postcard image from Danielle Krysa's "Winter Was Hard on Rose".
Couch image on main website page taken by Stella Vazquez.