Terrarium Builder: Giving Growth a Space

I am terrible at keeping plants alive. Out of respect I’ve stopped buying indoor plants or spring flowers for the porch. It runs in the family. My mother killed even a pot of dandelions she’d stolen from the yard for our pet rabbit. I thought if I named them I’d be more likely to keep a schedule of watering, watching and wondering why one leaf is yellow. Fred the fern, near my kitchen sink, did have a good run. But eventually Fred got tall and gangly on, I would guess, the wicked up AOE of soapy water because he lived next to the kitchen sink.

A friend gave me a micro violet in a small bell jar and said, “Just don’t kill this,” like she was casting a spell of protection. That little fairy sized cluster of purple flowers did eventually die, though. But the bell jar remained. Enter terrariums, little encapsulated worlds. I looked up the set up of these bubble biomes, and layered it with little pebbles, potting soil and charcoal. I found miniature ferns and shade loving indoor plants that liked each other. Then I topped that bad boy off with a terracotta pot base. It was like a garden of immortal freak plants.

I do not like being bad at understanding things. I don’t mind starting over. I don’t mind struggle or being plain awkward as I learn. But being totally blank on what a plant even wants with no solid direction was like hitting me in my funny bone with a whiffle ball bat furiously. Learning isn’t always an action. It can be a surrender of control in earnest of the unknown. Some plants would grow full while others would shrink and make room. A variety of moss vied for space and tiny mushrooms sprouted from their fuzz. These were seeded from spore that had hitchhiked in. They tendrilled out quickly and then withered in a week. Things lived and adapted; died or flourished. It continued without interruption as I waited for something to break the balance. This cycle was perfect. It survived due to unyielding motion.

There’s an undercurrent of this that lives in unhindered curiosity. When we are new to learning it’s survival. It’s an unquestioned force of nature. Anything we are told or see is fuel to move forward and understand. As we grow older we see who we are to others. We understand questions have motives and the symbol of intelligence weighs down our growth. Answers aren’t as valuable as unspoken pressures. Even asking questions forms answers of who we are as soon as they leave our mouth. The nature in us is tethered and withers under its restraint.

Though I have very different themes in my work I am committed recently to creating something needed, but not necessarily beautiful or profound. More than answers or seeking knowledge to an end, I have found it’s good to create a space and let things grow from it. A story, an invitation or a game. All to respect our original tool. Letting in the world to become part of it. Not just through my work, but art as a space for me.

I knew where my theme of black and white world ending harbingers came from when I made them. There were extreme unanswered questions. The world around us in black and white is like boiling our parts down to simple symbols. Wanting answers is a human flaw, but when there is no direction we tend to break our world down into its more hieroglyphic parts, grasping at the building blocks of what we know. It’s important to watch and reroot and I took a very long time after creating this project identifying what it was I had to watch to move forward. To me the thing I needed to take in was the nature of connections because the main issue was division. I tried to understand these until i saw where one began and the other ended and then back again. After this I decided I was not so much an artist as I was using my work to record this journey.

I spent time making things that were against my nature to prove you can change if you see failure as movement and learning as a process that won’t end or be quantified. I didn’t need to know what I was going to make but I greatly wanted to point it in the direction of my goal. This goal was many versions of connection, growth and pattern. I tried woodworking and learning about lighting, trying new tools and machinery and knowing when to find people who understood the subjects I lacked in. I began making more digital art and used this to make 3 dimensional work. I wove story into art and fiction into reality.

I concertedly found people in the throes of irrational hate and I watched how they healed the same way and got angry the same way. I realized we all knew there was a great black and white on the horizon and it was something different to everyone. And I knew this didn’t matter because the only thing we have is ourselves and the choices we make in what we do. Our minds are our world. Inside us is a small glass garden and we have to trust it can do well if we let it grow towards the one beacon we believe in at its simplest shape.

I make things as an exploration of what matters to me. Life is a journey through unforeseen struggle and growing is largely painful. My work is as an invitation to pointedly trust the best in people even at their worst. And to invite play because at its simplest and most effective learning is just play but towards a goal.

Its not even symbolic. It’s just joy and using those to draw in wonderful people and lift them up. It’s humor and magic, mixing everything I love into new forms. The only message is trust your life to know what it needs to move forward. Let it be wild and tell you. Accept its ebb and flow. All you need to know is you are looking for the sun and the rest is the friction from which we create what matters.

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