I Bring You Flowers

I Bring You Flowers

This exhibition combines the work done in two family artist residencies that I organized to make art with the support of my partner Marcin and my children Helena and Ulysses. First, I organized a month-long artist residency with Katarina Janeckova Walshe in Texas in October 2023, titled "Painting like a Mother." In that residency, I developed the painting process with children that I brought to the Soil Factory — using casein paint on unprimed cotton canvas and finishing with details with oil paint. At that residency, I also started painting flowers, speaking to those I encountered with surprise in the Texan desert. At the Soil Factory, I wanted to expand on that experience by inviting others to join me in this art-making process. The notion of "the other" also started to show itself in that first residency, as Katarina and I mirrored each other as mothers of two children of similar ages. While exploring "otherness" here at the Soil Factory, I found the answer to my interest in flowers: they are, in nature, a culmination of beauty in the same way that we experience pleasure in our cultural connections. In other words, flowers represent the climax we reach in our successful interpersonal relationships.

A flower is a gift that expresses love or assists us when grieving by reminding us of life's inherent beauty. We use them to decorate, give messages, and connect ourselves with nature. Somehow, the flower became reduced to femininity: rarely do we see boys' clothes with flowers or bring them to the men in our lives. Yet, men, especially scientists, botanists, and gardeners, also have a deep interest in and passion for flowers. My father's favorite flowers are white lilies; my son loves chicories. My approach to flowers, however, searches for an alternative knowledge that contrasts the one that classifies them and allows for picking favorites. In these paintings, I aim to bring out the energies and the connections experienced with flowers, the unspeakable and preverbal that we share when we are in contact with the unruly beauty of nature.

My flowers are not the result of observational drawing or traditional nature paintings; they are visual expressions of the experiential movement and vitality that flowers give us. Ultimately, these paintings respond to my trust in the human capacity to be impacted by subtlety and notice beyond what we can see.

While I cultivate this experimental knowledge of the human capacity for subtlety through painting, I decided to include in this exhibition explicit references to the "experiential exercises of freedom" done by Brazilian artists in the 1970s. In the past two weeks, I've experienced great joy in creating a collective work I imagined as an encounter between the Brazilian artists Antonio Dias, Lygia Clark, Helio Oiticica, and Lygia Pape. In "A Circle with Volition," I invited two families that came to paint with me to move together using the same piece of lycra that I used to create my Motherhood Flag. Following that joy, I made two wearable paintings with titles of meaningful social and political causes in our time. The invitation is to dance with the paintings — the artwork will successfully plant cultural seeds if people find a partner or a group to dance together. The dance floor for this work also features paintings done with children, aptly titled by Helena as "Dance-Floor Paintings."

The open space provided by the warehouse at the Soil Factory allowed me to bring to fruition the work "Flower Constellation," which combines multiple paintings on carpet pieces. This work, which has been in the making for over one year, invites people to find a path through the paintings on the floor, trying to avoid stepping on the paintings or the flowers. Finally, "The Goddess of Soil Factory" is an unfinished painting accompanied by a short essay and photographs of a surprising and impressive moment I lived in this space; one of those unexpected gifts that an artist residency brings us!

These are my acknowledgments for what I experienced in these two weeks of Artist in Residency at the Soil Factory: Anna Iallegio and Neil Schull are setting up an extremely welcoming experience for artist residents at the Soil Factory. May their inspiring way of working reverberate in other spaces that host artists! Jared May volunteered his time and work to help us set up the exhibition; I'm in awe of his kindness and patience. Many people, more than I can list here, adults and children, came to meet with me to talk or to paint together in these two weeks. I found joy, knowledge, and play in each of these visits. My family supported me with unbelievable flexibility as I shifted our routine to fit more art-making time into our days. All of you, please see the flowers I show in this exhibition as gestures of my endless gratitude!

Debora Faccion Grodzki