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Posts Tagged ‘George Gessert’

Day Lilies blooming,7/09

For many years I have admired the gardening efforts by the staff and park volunteers to beautify the area around the Interpretive Center.  I don’t know if these fine folks get the credit they deserve, but I thought I could devote a post to sing their praises and say thank you.  I would be remiss if I didn’t also notice the man-made loveliness to go with all the man-made rubbish deposited by the river and frequently cited by me in my art.

Day lilies, 7/09

The Day Lily Collection at the Interpretive Center is particularly nice and I have been enjoying the blooms for the past couple of weeks.  Dozens of varieties are represented and each is labelled.  Our area has a very active day lily society and their plant sales are avidly attended.  I have heard people refer to gardening as an “art”, but what about the flowers themselves.  Can a real flower be a work of art?

Yellow spider-lilies, 7/09

Many years ago, (the early 1990’s) I organized an art exhibition entitled “Green” for the Louisville Visual Art Association.  I chose the show’s title before the whole “green” consciousness became so prevalent.  In that show, I had a selective representation of artists  that expressed a concern for the environment.  By far, the artist whose work and ideas I found the most interesting belonged to George Gessert of Eugene, Oregon. 

Day lily, 7/09

red and yellow daylilies, 7/09

pink and yellow, daylilies, 7/09

Gessert considers himself to be a “genetic artist” and his medium are the wild iris varieties he finds in the Pacific northwest.  His basic idea is that the plants and animals we surround ourselves with would not exist in nature without our selectively choosing which characteristics of a given species we find attractive or useful.  He believes what we find attractive in flower blooms is a kind of cultural preference and conditioning and in his own iris works, likes to show what other forms are possible.

deep red daylilies, 7/09

Gessert’s ideas and work raises many possibilities which he has made clear in several articles in the Science/Art journal “Leonardo”.  If we think artists are people who create beauty by manipulating inert materials what do you call it when living materials are used?  Could a dog or horse be considered a living sculpture because they wouldn’t exist in their present forms without our intervention?  Just as interesting is the observation that we are surrounding ourselves with plants and animals that are hybrids or cultivars.  Look around you, how many of the plants do you see in your yard that are wild and native?  It’s fewer than you think.

Falls view with daylilies, 7/09

With genetics, the intersection of art and life is about to get really blurry.  As we learn more about the molecular codes that program life, the more tempted we are to experiment.  There is always the specter of eugenics as well and the quest to make people not just better, but superior.  Another possibility is that we may make new varieties of food plants that could feed an overcrowded and starving planet.  As for the question about the flower being a work of art in itself…I’m going to say yes.  I like that art can push the boundaries of what is considered the norm and in the process alert us to  and prepare us for the future.  After Gessert, I can’t look at a typical garden in the same way as I once did without thinking about the issues he raises.

daylilies at the Falls, 7/09

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