British Artist, Rebecca Louise Law, has installed a work at the Toledo Museum of Art in Ohio that encapsulates the powerfully immersive experience of nature. "Painting in air," as the artist terms her technique, Law used 520,000 flowers from 10,000 different local plant species to create an immersive experience that echos being in the actual natural world. Law "pockets," as she puts it, organic forms and incorporates them into her work. Glass is not an aspect of the current installation, which is on view through January 13th, but a second project is planned that will encase Law's work in silica to preserve it and present it in new ways.
For the current installation, the flowers are pressed, encased, and appended by copper wire from the ceiling of the spacious exhibition space.
The installation is titled "Community," a name inspired by Law’s recognition of the entire community surrounding the Toledo museum, which made a deep impression on her. Law let the installation become a celebration of this particular group of people by inviting them to contribute: she collaborated with local botanists to do the research and flower picking and many local residents had a hand in the pressing, encasing, and wiring of the flowers. All together, 1,850 hours of volunteer work over the course of 15 days went into the piece, something that Law takes pride in and considers to be central to the meaning of the work.
One might wonder how eco-conscious the artwork could be, considering so many flowers were picked, but in fact, the installation is entirely sustainable: the plants are preserved and completely ready to be re-planted and flower anew, while the flowers themselves can last hundreds and even thousands of years when encased properly. Interestingly, this concentration on sustainability, becomes intertwined with the conceptual framework of the piece as it grapples with notions of permanence: while we often think about nature as ephemeral and impermanent, Law’s meticulous practice of preserving each flower results in something as long-lasting as a painting.
Where does the glass come in? One might ask. The Toledo Museum will be working with Law to realize the glass component of the installation over the coming months. However, rather than weaving glass into what is already installed, they will combine what is left from the installation after it is de-installed, namely the dust residue of the dried flowers, with glass elements.
The museum's glass studio manager, Alan Iwamura, explains: "We are going to be doing some experimental work with the dust that she collects from her installations. We are going to be working with her on a couple of different techniques that will allow her to incorporate the material with glass and create a 360-degree viewing opportunity.”
Law will take part in a Guest Artist Pavilion Project (GAPP) Residency from January 21 through the 31st. The Toledo Museum of Art’s GAPP Residency was formed to work with artists who are "not familiar with glass as a medium of artistic expression and provide them an opportunity for an experimental approach to using glass as a creative material."
"The Museum provides technical support, materials, and time for experimentation—and a staff that is capable of helping artists realize a body of work in glass without the years of training they might otherwise require."
It will be very exciting to see what the remains of such a striking and large-scale installation will transform into and what Law will be able to bring to the table through her endeavors in glass.