Ernest Viveiros, "Spring Fantasy", oil on canvas, 2011

The Bible tells the story of Adam and Eve (mankind) expelled from the Garden of Eden for picking fruit from the tree of knowledge. Katie St. Clairʼs, The Hierarchy of Living Things gives us little comfort in whatever knowledge we have gleaned from that singular fruit. Here, naked as the day she was born, a young woman crawls and feeds in a flower bed like some voracious beast. We understand that nature is resilient, but our needs are great and hardly benign.

That said, Manifest Galleryʼs current exhibit Botanical offers distinct viewpoints we may have about the plant kingdom. Some of the artists are faithfully literal in their depiction of plants and use them to convey issues of lifeʼs cycle, their elegant structure, and seductively tactile strangeness. In this manner, Marguerite Frenchʼs Blueprint for Polysiphon type and Blueprint for for Protea Type make the clearest case for design and structure. The reduction of each plant to a monochromatic diagram of mathematical notations, geometric equations as line and minimal photographic transformation recall the science of Leonardo, Fibonacci, and countless botanical tomes.

Hung in proximity to Ernest Viveirosʼ gorgeous photo realist oils of a dahlia, Spiked Dahlia and irises in Spring Fantasy, Frenchʼs images allude to natureʼs capacity to delight our eyes.

But life without death is only half the story. Nathan Sullivan paints equally evocative oils of beech tree seed pods, Form # 22 and a juniper branch, Form #25 where the void- like

darkness echoes the silence of the forest, an anonymous existence and eventual return to nothingness. As observer and guardian of our botanical heritage, the close-up scale invites reflection upon this shared journey. His dramatic baroque lighting and limitless space effectively turn our gaze inward. These seeds are the beginning. Their fragile and lonely presence alludes to mortality and time where light and color as we know it ceases.

Others in the exhibition share these thoughts and describe it in more abstract terms. Noriko Kuresumiʼs Sea of Memory evokes the calcified remnants of a former life. Is this a sculpture of sea life coral, the casting of fungi-like growths or the embalmed and ossified flesh of animal life? The organic and lyrical motion of her piece with its fanciful ruffles, lush linear contours, and ever-changing movement is a testament to the animate state of all living things. Yet, the association with dead coral and casting is always at hand. From my perspective, I am reminded of the casts by George Segal and the victims of Pompeii. Sea of Memory is all that remains. In two dimensions, John Grantʼs Visitation has similar qualities. Here, the lyrical motion of the tulipʼs petals, its upside-down placement, and dreamy atmospheric space invoke time as a whirling dervishʼs dance that eventually ends and is planted, head first in the ground.

Returning to Katie St. Clairʼs collage, we are predators in the garden. We pass through, admiring its beauty, the life forces that are sexual, mysterious, mathematical, and random. Time is never far away. We may grow the garden, by the clock and in the sun as Jamie Obermaierʼs sculpture An Easy Solution 10 aptly implies. But we are a part of the machine not above or outside of it. St Clairʼs hierarchy is a mirage and we are more like the lilliputian voyager in Alexander Solomonʼs microscopic digital world, Untitled 11 where in time our destiny and that of botany become one, dust.

–Cole Carothers

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