By Holly Keris | Photos by Doug Eng
Our Journey together with nature is fragile.
Living is a gift.
Time is a gift.
Anxiety is real.
Sickness is real.
It is time to heal.
Both nature and ourselves.
Time to be a community.
To heal together.
Take away the mirror.
Put down the phone.
It’s time to be present.
These words by British artist Rebecca Louise Law summarize the new site-specific installation she created for the Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens. Using more than a million dried flowers collected throughout her career, as well as 10,000 fresh stems hand-wired by a team of local volunteers, “The Journey” forms an immersive visitor experience that explores the relationship between humanity and nature.
Based in Wales, Law has been commissioned to create installations at the Onassis Cultural Center in Athens, Greece, Chandran Gallery in San Francisco, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew in London, and in New York City’s Times Square, among other venues. Her work has been exhibited at a range of galleries and at major institutions, including the Royal Academy of Arts and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.
When conceptualizing her vision for this project, Law says, “I want this installation to explore the momentum of life. From the second we are formed in cells we are moving and changing within a world that is also evolving. This rhythmic cycle that we are all participants of fascinates me. This installation will be a short journey through nature, with its many forms and scents, stimulating the senses to the extreme.”
Visitors to the museum walk through and around two long semi-transparent “walls” of dried flowers, hand-tied on copper wire and suspended from the ceiling 16 feet in the air. Inside the tunnel, visitors are cocooned between roses, strawflowers, hydrangea, gypsophila, statice, sunflowers, delphinium, larkspur, birds of paradise, yarrow, Angelonia, dahlia, cosmos, lupin, peony, and many others. The scent is palpable even through masks worn to protect against COVID. From the outside of the tunnel, viewers are treated to what looks like a 95-foot-long painting with shimmering colors and textures, while getting a look at the other participants walking “through” nature. This distinctive design allows visitors to become both participants and bystanders.
Law explains, “I’ve always wanted to bottle the excitement and freedom I feel on being surrounded by nature. The delight in lying in a field of flowers on a sunny day or making a den in the undergrowth of a forest has always filled me with awe and I longed for a way to share and express this through art. To recreate the world I saw as a child, the wonder and innocence of being enveloped in nature, and sharing the awe and beauty of the Earth with the viewer [is] an impossible task without using an element of natural beauty itself, and for me this had to be the flower. I used flowers like I used oil paint … using each space like a canvas.”
Of course, working with flowers as opposed to paints creates unique challenges and opportunities. Aside from the care and preservation required to ensure materials can continue to be reused in new projects, Law also hopes her work inspires visitors to think more fully about sustainability, consumerism, and longevity. She asks viewers to think anew about standard notions of beauty. By using materials that, despite their initial cost, are widely considered disposable, Law challenges our notions of beauty. “It’s difficult to flow against the cycle of life and death, trying to preserve and hold on to a material that traditionally has little or no value in a modern culture,” she explains.