Penelope Lively in her book, Life in a Garden, writes “. . gardening has this embracing quality in that it colors the way you look at the world.” I like that thought and I believe it. I believe it is a very good thing.
Public Gardens are full of surprises and during my visit to the Cleveland Botanical Garden there was an exhibition of Biblio Botany, Books Sprouting New Life work by Ohio artist Lisa Meeks. Lisa must surely be a gardener as well as an artist and she is a lover of books. In her artist’s statement she writes:
“These sculptures are literally made from the pages of books. I am a lover of books, so please forgive me. I have torn their pages, and I have cut their bindings. I lightly paint the pages on both sides to create the colors and tones needed for each plant and flower. I want enough print to remain visible in order to remember its origin. I crease, fold, twist and coax these pages to become something new.”
Her art drew me in, first because I love flowers and then as I began to look more closely, the flowers grew out of the books, the pages create the flowers, the ideas began to grow. The flowers are rooted in the words of the books she used for the exhibition. The title of an art piece speaks volumes to the viewer and here it clearly represented the challenge of the artwork.
The Wall–Created from the pages of: A Glorious Defeat: Mexico’s War with the United States, and U.S. Immigration and Refuge Law
Mein Errors–Created from the pages of Mein Kampf
Weaponized–Created from the pages of Invisible Wounds of War
Lincoln Created from the pages of The American Civil Rights Movement: Readings & Interpretations
Here the artist uses a cotton plant, upside down, with the roots on top, she says “we haven’t gotten this right yet (civil rights) so when we get it righted, we can flip this right side up”
Gettysburg created from the pages of Harper’s Pictorial History: Great Rebellion
Imprisoned from the pages of Getting Life and Just Mercy
Three Religions–Created from the pages of: The Great War of Our Time (ISIS), The Crusades, The Way of The Strangers – Encounters with the Islamic State, History of Zionism.
Giverney Melting–Created from the pages of Climate Change: The Facts
Silent Summer created from the pages of Silent Spring
Les Mis created from the pages of Poor Kids in a Rich Country
As I explored the images and ideas mixed by the artist to form the artwork I was inspired and hopeful for the future. Such beauty for the eye mixed with a challenge for the mind is indeed great art. The artist’s statement continues: “Flowers are laden with symbolism, so each flower has been chosen carefully to reflect my mixed emotions on the complexity of social issues we live with. Am I for free trade? Is there better living through chemistry? Global warming, GMO‘s – so many concerns to work through.
Books make me think. They help me process ideas, emotions and history. I have been greatly enriched by this series, and my hope is that the viewer is as well.”
Lisa Meek is a local Ohio artist, and she is a physician with an active practice. I don’t know how many more opportunities there will be for this exhibition to be shown, I hope it travels far and wide. Remember her name, Lisa Meek, and look for her work. But I am sure that to generate such work requires that “embracing quality” that colors the way you look at the world. I am delighted I was able to view it and experience the intricate ideas she generated in my mind. I wanted to share it with you because it is the surprise of finding such incredible works of art along with a beautiful garden. Here was such great work, in a hallway gallery space, in the entrance to the Cleveland Botanical Garden. This just the kind of thing that keeps me enthused about visiting gardens. I hope this inspires you to make time to explore the artwork set in public gardens.