One of the main goals of this project is to connect contemporary gardening to history. I believe that by understanding the context and systems that we exist within, we are better able to be conscious of the consequences of our decisions. History matters, right?
So I've been looking at how gardening affected class development in the late Colonial/Revolutionary period, how gardening was affected by ideas about leisure and our relationship to nature in the mid/late nineteenth century, and the propaganda surrounding the Victory Gardens of the World Wars of the twentieth century. Sounds good, right?
So much of our experiences of our gardens is aesthetic and sensory, so I've been making images using the popular forms of portraiture of those time periods to engage at least one of our senses. I've interviewed many of the 2015 Garden Project participants, and lots of people talked about the pleasures of digging in the dirt, observing plants grow and experience our garden microcosms. I hope these images bring back some of that aesthetic pleasure!
Silhouettes were a popular form of portraiture from about 1770-1830, although it didn't truly die out until photography took hold. They were often made of paper cut with scissors or knife in under three minutes. The silhouettes often depicted the profile in precise and crisp detail, and showed the hat, collar and other adornments denoting the social status of the sitter in more stylized ways. Silhouette artists were often called profilists, and part of the popularity of the medium was due to Lavater's theories on physiognomy, that depictions of a person's features could give insights into his or her character (Hickman 1972, 4). It was also a professional that had a relatively large number of female professionals, perhaps because during the eighteenth century women were believed to be more able to perceive the "minutiae" of nature (Parrish 2006, 185).
I present some silhouettes of plants from my garden.
Hickman, Peggy. Silhouettes. London, UK: National Portrait Gallery, 1972.
Parrish, Susan Scott. American Curiousity: Cultures of Natural History in the Colonial British Atlantic World. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 2006.