I will be forever jealous of the knowledge and value that our ancestors had for the environment's flora. Everywhere, they were surrounded by potential balms, poultices, pain relievers, euphoriants, and entheogens, using these systems as tools for the sustenance of their bodies and edification of their spirits. As pharmacology continues to advance, I believe it is important to have a sophisticated understanding of the plants from where it derived and knowledge of their traditional uses. This rich botanical history, along with practices of ethno-botany (such as shamanic practices), the exploration of plants as a system of knowledge, the organization of agriculture for the purpose of sustaining the masses, the history of plant illustration, and the history of the naturalist's perspective all heavily influence my work.
Urban areas continue to thrive and expand at a rapid rate, resulting in negative effects in biodiversity throughout the lands around them. As scientists are seeing a decline of biodiversity in wilderness areas, they are often finding the opposite trend in highly populated urban areas. This rise and fall of biodiversity is one of many reasons for my research on edible, medicinal, and psychoactive plants growing in the Tempe/Phoenix valley, as well as my fieldwork on plants out in their natural environment throughout the Southwest. With this in mind, I hope to shed light on the rich variety and the importance of plants growing near and far from our homes, and by incorporating styles from still life paintings and botanical illustrations throughout art history, while also including descriptions of each plant's traditional uses, I want to remind viewers of the role plants have played in our evolution of knowledge and well being for tens of thousands of years.
The title, Vivarium, reflects this interest in our unique relationship with nature, and sets the theme of curiosity, containment, and control. Vivarium, meaning “place of life,” is an enclosed space with plants or animals for observation or research purposes. For me, this act of concealing fragments of nature expresses a sense of power one has over something, much like science with nature, while also expressing great affection and love towards that same thing. It is in this binary friction that fundamental characteristics at the root of our own nature are revealed, as are issues evident in the modern perspective of the natural world.