Paper Garden

Holly Senn plants an idea in "Composites."

Every garden is a collaboration, a creative conversation between human being and plants in which the gardener has the louder voice, but the vegetation has the final say.

Unless the gardener is Holly Senn. For a number of years, the Tacoma-based artist has been crafting botanical sculptures that “explore the life cycle of ideas – the organic, non-linear process in which thoughts have a genesis and then are disseminated, adopted or refuted, forgotten or referenced.” In her world, old books provide the rich mulch from which art arises. She takes discarded library volumes, plucks their yellowed leaves then reanimates them in the form of three-dimensional buds, seeds and fruit.

Senn’s new installation at the Woolworth Building, Composites, is a colorful hybrid of an exhibit combining her word-based sculptures and photography. Six flower sculptures are paired with six photographs of flowers, each duo creating, in effect, a self-contained diorama.

“I’m a sculptor – I think and work in three-dimensional forms. Instead of sketching I take photographs of plants and use those photos as inspiration and models for my sculptures,” she explains. “In combining the two processes I wanted to invite viewers to look closer….The integration of the sculptures with the canvases allows viewers to reflect on the level of similarity and integration.”

A diorama by Holly Senn.

Senn’s Spaceworks-supported installation is located at 11th and Broadway in windows that face out at the weekly Tacoma farmers’ market. The siting adds vibrancy and site responsiveness to the work. The open marketplace “brings a composite of plants, people and ideas to Broadway….Ideas are the most invisible part of the market composition, but are an important part of the communication and transactions that take place across cultures, genders and ages of the participants.”

The works in Composites were originally exhibited at the Brooklyn Public Library in 2009. The Brooklyn Botanic Garden provided Senn with source material – photographs of plants from the garden which she transformed digitally, enlarged and printed on canvas for the dioramas’ backgrounds. She then created, leaf by leaf, her vivid and painstakingly detailed individual responses to the images of wisteria, holly, red bud, tulip, rhododendron and cherry. You can see the artist’s personal journal of photographs and observations about plants on her website. Composites, 11th and Broadway, March 14 through July 1.

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