Archive for January, 2015

Frida Kahlo at the New York Botanical Garden

2015-01-16 Kahlo - Sun and Life

Coming up in May: Kahlo’s first exhibition in New York City for 10 years will focus on her relationship with nature and be set in the New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx.

“One of the most important paintings in the show is Kahlo’s 1931 portrait of botanist inventor Luther Burbank, who is credited with developing more than 800 varieties of plants. Kahlo paints him sprouting from the ground, a plant in his hand and his bottom half depicted as a tree. The painting can be read politically, Zavala says: ‘This work was at the top of my list, not only because of its subject matter but because Kahlo creates an extraordinary human/plant hybrid – it reflects her thinking and beliefs in 1931, a time when the mixing of species was anathema in places like Germany.’” (Burbank also wrote a tome on child-rearing called “The Training of the Human Plant.”)

I’d never before thought of Kahlo as an artist for critical plant studies attention but this show looks like it may change that. I hope I get to see it.

Details of the Kahlo exhibit here.

2015-01-16 Kahlo - Luther Burbank

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Rapey Plant Stories and the Challenge to Darwinian Ideas About Gender

2015 01 13 rapey plant Philodendron_martianum

I laughed when I first read that in late 18th-century Western Europe, people worried that studying botany, which focused the attention on all those plants fertilizing one another, was too racy a pursuit for proper young ladies. Now I think we have yet, even in the 21st century, to really grapple with how plant being challenges our basic assumptions about sexuality.

Do male plants rape females as a means of propagating the species? That’s the analogy that Dan Janzen used in 1977 when he applied Darwinian-based models of animal behaviour to plants.

Take a look at this thought-provoking article by Jeremy Yoder, postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Plant Biology at the University of Minnesota, who writes about how scientific theories of sexual selection, themselves originally based in human analogy, have ended up reframing not only stories of animal and human sexuality but also our understanding of plant reproduction.

Thanks to Eric Michael Johnson for passing this along.