Friday, January 27, 2012

New Paintingsez

{Finally, The Work! Plus An Essay!}

Installation View / from left to right: Garden Club and Mountain Series

Garden Club / 96 x 156 in. / acrylic on unstretched canvas / 2012

Slipcover Sky (Hockney's Couch) / 18 x 24 in. / oil on panel / 2011

Brooklandia / 18 x 24 in. / oil on panel / 2012

In Search of XYZ / 18 x 24 in. / oil on panel / 2011

Installation View, East

Installation View, West

Clover for Ajay (Jaipur at Night) / 60 x 72 in. / oil on canvas / 2012

Concord Silhouette / 72 x 60 in. / oil on canvas / 2011

Dandelion / 24 x 18 in. / relief print on handmade Japanese gampi paper (edition of 10) / 2011

Dandelion / 24 x 18 in. / relief print on handmade Japanese gampi paper (edition of 10) / 2011

Strawberry / 24 x 18 in. / relief print on handmade Japanese gampi paper (edition of 10) / 2011

Relief Print Installation

Ferns with Roots / 12 x 9 in. / oil on panel / 2012

Botanical Label Series Installation / from left to right: The Way We Remember It, Ocean Flowers, Ferns with Roots

Wallpaper Studies / from top to bottom: Sisters II, Trodden Weed, Sisters I

Sisters I / 12 x 9 in. / oil on panel / 2012

The Way We Remember It / 72 x 60 in. / oil on canvas / 2011

Hello muggles. Above, some shots of the new work, which is on view at Anne Reid for another week. Below, an essay I wrote for the show which explains the overarching concept of my recent work. I've also updated my website, which has more shots if you're interested (send me an email for inquiries if something strikes your fancy!). Have a great weekend! I'm going to hear Meg from APW speak about her new book at Barnes & Noble in Park Slope tomorrow- can't W A I T to finally meet the woman behind the magic. See you Monday.

Say It With Flowers
Essay by Lily Stockman
Jan 9 – Feb 2, 2012 | Anne Reid Art Gallery | Princeton, NJ

When I was a a child growing up on our family farm my mother taught me what at the time seemed like a secret, special language, a lexicon as strange and wondrous as the very specimens they described: liverwort, henbane, toadflax, butter-and-eggs, hen-and-chicks, lambsear, cockscomb. This was the language of plants I learned at an early age, a language that electrified my imagination and prompted a life-long love of botany, Latin, geography, and art. My parents’ unusual decorating choices must have had something to do with it, too- our house was filled with 19th century plant art. The walls were a riot of flattened foliage: a floor-to-ceiling botanical study of wild carrot, curious 19th century tin tole paintings of New England plants, faded nature prints of pressed wildflowers in which the skilled hand of some great-great aunt had filled in the ghost image of the petals with watercolor. And so I developed a particularly acute interest not just in plants as they exist in the natural environment, but also a deep curiosity about a century’s-worth of people—mostly women—who tried in so many ways to reproduce, capture, and celebrate the image of plants.

The widespread fad of botanical art in 19th century America and Britain was the result of the unique cultural phenomenon of the amateur naturalist, wherein botany-as-pastime became a valid intellectual and social pursuit for young women. It is important to think of botanical art in the context of its time. Often wives and daughters of the men at the helm of the Industrial Revolution turned their interests not to the factory or city but instead to the field and forest. In the midst of mechanization they sought the quiet study of nature.

As traveling became easier, people suddenly had access to otherwise impassable wilds. The fern craze of the 1850s was a direct result of new roads and railways connecting cities to the rugged, damp western coasts of both America and Britain—and the hundreds of species of previously “undiscovered” ferns—thereby setting off the so-called Pteridomania, the fern frenzy, and the widespread pastime of hunting, collecting, propagating, pressing, drawing and cultivating ferns.

In looking back through 19th century photogenic drawings, cyanotypes, photographs, nature prints, botanical illustrations, silhouette cut-outs, etc. (the list of plant-related image replication goes on and on) in Reconstruction-era America and Victorian Britain, I see a similar cultural shift going on in my tech-savvy Internet generation. They are the after-work naturalists, the amateur botanists, the New Victorians.

As we become more dependent on and saturated with technology, I see a voracious hunger among a stratum of educated, young, urban women to explore the world through quasi-scientific, wholly domestic pursuits: they plant elaborate fire escape vegetable gardens, keep rooftop apiaries to pollinate them, forage for wild edibles in city parks, identify flowers by their most obscure colloquial names and collect them with an artist’s eye and a scientist’s curiosity. They are also avid digital photographers, bloggers and techies; they seem to straddle both worlds. Or maybe it is because they are such technophiles that they are also such devoted naturalists. Technology and botany, it seems, go hand-in-hand: much of their botanical research and documentation takes place in online forums like blogs, Flickr and Tumblr.

And so what does this all mean? The reasons my great-great grandmother collected, identified, and sketched bracken in the Hebrides in 1870 is, I’m willing to argue, not so different from the reasons that I collect, identify and eat wild purslane in Brooklyn here in 2011.What I see in common between these two distinct eras of amateur naturalists is a reaction against the cultural alienation of advancing technology through a gleeful curiosity in the natural world; it is a craving for a tactile, creative “nature experience” that brings us both intellectual and corporal pleasure.

The title of the show—Say It With Flowers—is in itself a pun. We’re all familiar with the saccharine motto; it’s become such a hollow cliché we don’t really contemplate its meaning. But here I employ it without irony and with polyvalent intentions; I really am saying something through flowers, just as my Victorian ancestors did when they pressed ferns between the endsheets of their Bibles and dictionaries. And what I am saying, how I am saying it, is a life-affirming gesture, at once a scientific study and a spiritual statement: it says, I exist in the natural world.


  1. The relief prints are amazing! Gorgeous, gorgeous work, Lily.

  2. Truly stunning work, Lily!! I so wish I could see it in person! And the essay just brings it to life even further - wow! LOVE it!! xoxo

  3. beyond beautiful x 10. and your essay really captures the spirit and the essence behind your work which makes it that much more meaningful. LOVE! xo


  5. lovely! i don't know how i missed that but i just might come to the APW event since i happen to have an afternoon to myself to kill tomorrow in the slope. so maybe see you there.

  6. Beautiful work! That strawberry relief print breaks my heart it's so gorgeous and fragile.

  7. i'm fairly sure you need to teach a workshop on Ye Unpackin' Essay, lily s. so many are thrown-together messes, and yours are doughty and straight-backed. i want to bake bread for them.

  8. Couldn't agree more with your essay. It's so true, we're no different from the women who came before us, and all things come around again. (Sorry, history degree is rearing its head!) Seriously in love with the mountain series and strawberry print!

  9. wow lily, that's a beautiful essay. (your works are lovely too! duh.) i know what you mean about the 'secret language' of flowers from childhood...did you ever read the 'flower fairies' series? it was one of my favourites, for a number of reasons, but mostly because it merged kids with wildflowers...something my little mind was aching to connect to. i'm the only one of my friends who can find edible flowers + berries while out on a neighbourhood walk, and that kind of makes me sad. maybe that's why i feel so drawn to the blogworld; specifically the part of it that celebrates nature and natural expression.

    anyway, thanks for've gotten me thinking... :)

  10. Amazing, Lil! The essay, the work, everything together. Obsessed with so many - Garden Club, Clover for Ajay, In Search of XYZ. You done good, lady.

    And you should know that we get so much joy out of your art. I love that those homesteads are one of the last things I see as I crawl into bed at night. xoxo

  11. Aw, thanks guys! What thoughtful, amazing comments- you guys are truly remarkable. To answer some questions:

    Julia- COME! I just had drinks with Meg at Black Mountain Wine House (I believe an ocasional haunt of yours?) and am SOOO excited for her reading tomorrow- she is such a dreamboat. It's going to be a zoo, tons of bloggers, such high spirits- COME COME COME!

    Lauren- my essays would be delighted to eat your baked bread any old time. xo.

    In Dreams- thank you, lady! I LOVED the flower fairies as a child. My three sisters and I fought over who got to be what fairy; if I'm memory serves me right I think I wanted to be the rosehip fairy, or maybe the myrtle fairy. You nailed it.

  12. Such beautiful paintings, and I LOVE your style of writing. The essay is incredible. Thank you for sharing.

  13. i came across your blog through the maker's project, and i la-la-la-LOVE your work. :) just thought i'd say hello.

  14. intelligent and gentle and lyrical: typical Lil.

  15. Lily - I wanted to be the rosehip fairy, too! I still have a little birthday book of the flower fairies in a box somewhere... Anyways, I just wanted to tell you how much I LOVE this essay. I've read so many artist statements, and yours might be my favorite ever. So interesting, so well written. Smart, well researched, but also relevant to the real world and not snobby at all. Thanks for including more images of the show. Beautiful.

  16. I was there!! Sorry I had to brag. The paintings were just lovely in person. The prints even more fragile yet captured in permenancy. So glad you posted all the beautiful work. I can't wait to see if there are more mural type prices in the works.

  17. You say it well, whatever the medium.

  18. really beautiful art and words, congratulations on a great show

  19. god, i can barely write a paragraph long artist statement. that was wonderful to read!

  20. really really beautiful work. well done. and a lovely statement.

  21. i absolutely love your artwork, especially the garden club & mountain series. thank you, especially, for posting the essay that accompanies the show. i've been trying to understand my own place in the coexisting worlds of technology and nature. there is so much in your words that help me with that.


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