It was last March that I read Growing the Good Life author Michele Owens’ post on Garden Rant about the lovely seed packages from Hudson Valley Seed Library. Of course I had to go to the site at once and it was there that I first saw Sheryl Humphrey’s work, on a design for Rainbow Chard. The art, all by local artists, wowed me and I remember happily whiling away a good part of an hour immersed in the library’s work and their Art Packs of heirloom seeds.
When I came upon Humphrey’s work again this week on her Etsy site, her art and the “Sisterhood of Flora” theme spoke to me deeply. I had to share.
Here’s two more of her paintings and what she has to say about them and her gardening connection.
I started gardening after I got married, and for 25 years my husband and I have created small urban oases in our yards in Brooklyn and now Staten Island. Learning about the plants, caring for them, and being able to appreciate their beauty and discover their structures on a daily basis was a life-changing process for me. My relationship to Nature became strongly spiritual. Nature themes began to appear in my artwork, in tandem with a looking inward.
“The Sisterhood of Flora” is my ongoing series of small-scale oil paintings, depicting girls’ and women’s faces surrounded by blossoms. These faces appear to me as I admire the flowers I am growing. Their mysteriously compelling gazes have an otherworldly aspect, and the invented portraits can be seen as the flowers’ guardians or spirits.
As an artist I really enjoy the challenge of combining observation of the floral still-life with a fantasy portrait in a stylistically unified painting. I have been influenced by painters of the early Italian Renaissance, and by the Pre-Raphaelites, the Symbolists, Art Nouveau, the Magic Realists, and many visionary, psychedelic, and outsider artists.
I read a lot about herbalism, alchemy, folklore, and mythology, and this enters into my work. My paintings are included in the upcoming group exhibition “Witchy Women: Mothers, Myths, and Magic,” curated by Laura James and Mary See (see catalog here ). I am working on a nonfiction book, “The Haunted Garden: Death and Transfiguration in the Folklore of Plants,” which will be published later this year thanks to a 2012 DCA Premier Grant from the Council on the Arts and Humanities for Staten Island, with public funding from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs.