October 13 – November 25, 2023
The Main Gallery
2023 Artist-In-Residence Exhibition
Opening Reception: Friday October 13th, 7 -10 pm
The collection and cultivation of rare plant is a centuries-old practice. Historically, colonial powers’ greenhouses and gardens served as grounds to exercise dominance over land and its resources. Throughout the course of European imperial expansion in the 17th and 18th centuries, plant species were transplanted from their native habitats with varying levels of success, and with varying levels of respect for local and Indigenous knowledge systems. Not only were they studies for their medicinal capabilities and other useful purposes, but their collection and display became a symbol of status.
Taiessa is an emerging visual artist based in Treaty Six territory. The work that she makes comes from a socially engaged practice, a vast technical ability, and a quiet yet powerful vision. This is clearly evident in her recent body of work, variegata, which culminates her 2022-23 Artist-In- Residence Program at Harcourt House Artist Run Centre in Edmonton.
In her ongoing series variegata, the artist examines the commercialization of plant collecting as tied to colonial extraction, continuing to serve as an accrual of social capital in contemporary times. A current trend in the still-booming exotic plant market dictates not only the species of plant, but its mutation. While many plants have variegation – simply, more than once colour present in their foliage – certain cultivars with chimeral variegation have become highly desirable. Marked by white or cream-coloured splashes punctuating otherwise green foliage, these variegations can increase the selling price of plant clippings by hundred of dollars.
variegata is a projection of the windowsill, plant nursery, the commercial and residential greenhouses’ future if current botanical trends are continually prioritized and selected for in growing practices. It is an exercise in and examination of futility, in that the key feature of chimeral variegations is that the cream- coloured plant tissues are of that hue due to their inability to produce chlorophyll. This genetic mutation emphasizes the ephemeral nature of plant life – not only will it cycle through growth and decay as an organic material, but it is certain to do so sooner as it lacks the chromosomes necessary to sustain its own life.
As art objects made from inert materials, theses sculptures actively resist ephemerality in direct contrast to the plant life they mimic. The hand-made plants in this series, wryly displayed in glass vials designed for propagation, act as mementos frozen in time. Much like the colonial and imperialist history of plant-collecting, this imagining relegates plant life to trophies to be amassed. Complicating this, however, is the methodology. Like living plants requiring investments of time and care to thrive, these sculptures have been made through laborious craft practices including appliqué, sewing, and felting. Together, this display questions flora as capital rather than life ripe with histories and knowledges to be appreciated and learned from, and beckons for more equitable forms of exchange. Taiessa offers these pieces as spacious moments to contemplate the implications of the objects in our daily life. The ghost-like presences of these felted sculptures of houseplants draw the viewer in and speak to the many layers and histories tied within these plants.
Taiessa (she/her) is a white settler and multi-discipline artist living in Edmonton/amiskwaciwâskahikan. Her artistic practice explores themes of nurturance, longing, exchange, and (im)permanence. Conceptually driven while rooted in process, she works primarily in printmaking, drawing, and soft sculpture.
Taiessa obtained a Fine Art Diploma with Distinction from MacEwan University in 2018, and later completed her BFA at the University of Alberta in Edmonton. In 2020, Taiessa participated in the Mitchell Art Gallery’s Artist Exchange pilot program. She has since expanded her engagement with local arts organizations through writing for Art From Here and SNAPline, and most recently showing her work at various public art institutions in Edmonton and beyond. Her career as an emerging artist has been supported through her work as Production Supervisor and Education Facilitator at The Works International Visual Arts Society in Edmonton, her position as the 2022-2023 Harcourt House Artist-In-Residence, and funding provided through the Edmonton Arts Council Grants for Individuals and Collectives. Care and reflexivity motivate her artistic, writing, administrative, and pedagogical practices within and beyond theses engagements.
variegata is supported by the Edmonton Arts Council and the City of Edmonton.
Top Image: scindapsus pictus, ceropegia woodii, philodendron micans, 2022, felt, thread, wheat paste, found jars, wood.
Photo by Manpreet Singh. Courtesy of the artist