A very cool installation at the University at Buffalo uses live plants in artifical settings—pretty much the definition of gardening!—to raise issues about our relationship to the natural world. It should be no news to anyone reading this that our relationship to the natural world is disfunctional in just about every way possible: we use the oceans and rivers as toilets for chemical and human waste; we tend to look at large unspoiled areas such as forests, wetlands, and other wilderness as opportunities for development rather than ecosystems to be preserved; and we're busy destroying the atmosphere with an onslaught of emissions, causing such problems as smog and acid rain in the short term and much worse in the long term.
So. A UB Masters of Fine Arts candidate, Carin Mincemoyer, finds it interesting that the more we distance ourselves from and destroy nature, the more we seek to bring little bits of it into our lives, whether it's through gardening*, office landscaping, or just houseplants. She collected a whole bunch of styrofoam packing components (hundreds of pieces) and used their compartments to create little water gardens, cactus environments, and other plantings. She then piled and arranged them all in a gallery, also building an elegant wooden walkway so that viewers can wander among the styrofoam landscape. Here it is:
I really like this on many levels (the image BTW does not really do it justice--it needs to be seen in person). Styrofoam of course is the ultimate symbol of the throwaway culture, but in this context it provides a pure white backdrop for the brilliant green of the plants. The walkway is nice--I'd like it in my garden if I could figure out where I could put it. The installation is called Grounded. It's placed in a very high space in the University at Buffalo Art Gallery called the Lightwell.
*According to a recent Harris poll, gardening is now the most popular leisure activity (after TV and reading).