Jardín Botánico Carlos Thays

BROTA and Buenos Aires Series "Gardens of Memory" Homes

My new photographic transfer technique using methylcellulose and toner doesn’t require a flat surface for the substrate, so I also created this piece Gardens of Memory: Homes. Eventually displayed on a small marble pedestal, it is a mixed media sculpture including a found snail shell, bird’s nest, methylcellulose, and toner. The piece is probably a little larger than you might imagine - its core dimensions without the pedestal are 5.125 x 5.125 x 3.5”. The snail shell is that of an apple snail, so titled because they can grow to the size of an apple. I sold this piece while in Buenos Aires to another artist, the very talented Masako Kano.

BROTA and Buenos Aires Artwork Series "Gardens of Memory" Sycamore Leaf Diptych

Here is a new diptych, meaning partner pieces that will always be shown together. Diptychs can also be framed or otherwise physically linked together, too, but in this case I am framing them separately. These are mixed media pieces including sycamore leaves, methylcellulose, toner, and acrylic on artisanal handmade papers. The first paper is a very eco-friendly renewable dyed banana paper that I collaboratively made on a former residency in Peru, and the second is a handmade silk paper from Ato Menegazzo Papeles in Buenos Aires.

BROTA and Buenos Aires Artwork Series "Gardens of Memory"

As you can see in this earlier post, I worked atop two very large trunk cross-sections for a permanent outdoor installation. I also worked atop smaller trunk and/or branch cross-sections as well. Here are four new pieces in my “Gardens of Memory” series. The series is so titled because the substrate is very directly a part of a once-living tree (paper is too, but in a more distanced form), and the images atop it are from various botanical gardens I’ve frequented.

BROTA and Buenos Aires Outdoor Installation Pieces

Here are two partner pieces I created to donate and install permanently in Buenos Aires after I leave with the help of BROTA! They are both mixed media pieces including acrylic, methylcellulose, toner, and marine varnish on a tree trunk cross-section, and will be diagonally mounted on wooden poles outdoors when installed. The institution that will host these works is yet to be determined. The two pieces are part of my Garden Memories series.

BROTA and Buenos Aires Artwork Series "Transmigration Landscapes" Preview

With permission from the Buenos Aires Botanical Garden, I have been taking plant samples and using chromatography to create a series of very literal plant self-portraits that also function as abstract landscapes. I am titling this series Transmigration Landscapes. There are 35 of these portraits, as well as 2 test designs that I liked enough to keep as well. Since I currently don’t have access to a scanner, processing photos of each to share clean images of the work requires a significant investment of time, so I figured I’d share a peek now with the promise of more to come!

BROTA and Buenos Aires Artwork 1

I’ve been working on two different series of artwork from the start using the new-to-me methylcellulose and chromatography papers, but both are very experimental and I’m not sure exactly what the finished products should even look like at this point. That’s why I’ve yet to reveal much in terms of production other than a couple early test images from the chromatography papers.

However, I started feeling anxious about how experimental I’m being - of course it’s good to experiment, but I wanted the comfort of completing a more traditionally “me” type of piece with a clear end point. Plus, I bought those artisanal handmade papers from Ato Menegazzo Papeles, and it would be a shame not to even work on some while here!

So while this isn’t the first artwork I’ve created here, it’s the first I am declaring finished! The painting is of a dwarf water hyacinth, Eichhornia crassipes. The common names in Spanish for this plant are (as per Wikipedia): jacinto de agua, flor de bora, camalote, aguapey, lechuguín, tarope, tarulla o reyna. I chose this plant in particular because I love how graphic and full of character it is, and the fact that it’s an aquatic plant means that the whole of the plant, including its root system, can be shown in a figure-ground relationship that also celebrates the handmade paper. Water hyacinth is an ornamental plant that is occasionally consumed and used medicinally, but is also highly invasive in warm climates and is often illegal to own or sell. An interesting dichotomy that inspired my current tentative title: Adrift.

BROTA and Buenos Aires Journal 2

On my third day, I spent some time working in the studio. I brought some very new-to-me, experimental papers that I wanted to try to work with, so I started off with the methylcellulose paper. It dissolves in water, but if you print atop it with toner (using a laser printer) the ink is supposed to remain, floating, in the water. I wanted to see if that meant I could collage with it and if it would be a visually distinctive method. It turns out the ink doesn’t hold together super well - maybe because I didn’t just print straight black on it - but if you move quickly you can still catch the image though it breaks and twists in uncontrollable ways. I’ve always liked collaborating semi-chaotically with water, so this suits me well. That evening Patricia took me to an opening she was participating in: Art & Swap 19. Artists display their work, and viewers place Post-Its near any work they want to offer a “swap” for - I saw web design services, therapy sessions, artwork trades, and more - and contact info and if the artist is interested, they will negotiate a swap. The opening was a real event, with free food from food trucks (french fries, filled croissants, and mini waffles as well as coffee and beer)!

The next morning, Saturday, I woke up with a sore throat and a cold. I was grumpy about it because it is not my ideal way to spend residency time, but it’s understandable when flying, coming into contact with tons of new people, and visiting an area where you have no local immunity. I rested for a day, but then tried to get on with seeing Buenos Aires. I visited the Feria de San Telmo, which is a big open air Sunday market similar to El Rastro in Madrid. Unfortunately for me, El Rastro is more to my taste; the goods at the Feria de San Telmo were mostly leathers/furs, Mafalda cartoons, pipes, piedra rosada (a pink stone that is the national stone of Argentina, but I’m not into that shade of pink), and yerba mate mugs. None of those really appealed to me either for myself or as gifts, which is of course not the market’s fault. The prices were also relatively high, which I had been warned about. I did eat lunch at a vegetarian restaurant near the start of the feria, and that was nice, as was getting to see the feria and that part of the San Telmo neighborhood! On my way back, I stopped by the Feria de Recoleta, which was quite similar in content but smaller and in the midst of a park.

The following afternoon Patricia took me out on a search for several of the items I’d requested - starting with artisanal papers and spray fixative. Unfortunately neither of us realized what a chore finding artisanal papers would be… due to the ongoing financial crisis in Argentina, some of the stores we went to visit had shut, others had downsized their selections, and eventually we ran out of options for the day but Patricia had one last lead we’d look into later. We then went to her neighborhood to find me a mortar and pestle that I had decided I needed for a second type of experimental artwork along with isopropyl alcohol, and tried to hunt down a shop that would sell me prints-per-page on my own paper on a laser printer, in case I wanted to print more on the methylcellulose paper. Patricia also invited me to dinner, so when we were all done shopping for studio supplies she made Milanesas de soja with salad. Milanesas are a sort of patty, and can be made out of many things but these were soy because she likes them and I’m vegetarian. It was a good, long day.

The next day Patricia met me in the botanical garden to take a couple photos of me for her Instagram announcement post about my residency. I needed to go to the garden anyway to collect leaves for the second type of paper I wanted to work with - a filter paper that would allow me to practice chromatography. Using a mortar and pestle, I can grind up leaves and/or flowers with alcohol, and then the filter paper will soak up the solution and separate out each pigment layer - chlorophyll A, chlorophyll B, xanothophyll, and carotenes. Each plant will presumably have a different chromatography, so the paper rounds will function as abstract portraits.

The following afternoon Patricia and I journeyed to the final lead for artisanal papers: Ato Menegazzo Papeles. The owner is a very nice man who makes his own artwork, does letterpress and printmaking, and had a few handmade papers as well as a lot of decorative and stamped papers. I bought several sheets. Then Patricia had taken notice that I like tiles, so she suggested we go to a tile store. I was excited, as it would never have occurred to me to ask, but I do like tiles! We stopped by one with antique tiles and one that had some modern options. Unfortunately I had to limit how many I could buy as they are surprisingly heavy and there are luggage weight limits. I’ve also heard terrible things about the mail service in Argentina - unlike in other residencies, I’ve been advised not to mail anything back as it likely won’t ever arrive.

Thursday I spent gathering more plant samples from the botanical garden and Patricia and I stopped in at two exhibition openings in galleries on the same block that evening. Both were very small, but one had ceramic wall pieces that I liked. That brings us to Friday, which I spent in the studio again!

BROTA and Buenos Aires Journal 1

My flight to Buenos Aires was a red-eye, and that seems to be the norm as all the flights I looked at were approximately at the same time. Though KCI is purportedly an international airport, I’ve never had a direct international flight out of it (the current expansion should help in the future, though!), and this was no exception - I flew through Atlanta and then on to Buenos Aires. My flights all went very smoothly and I also had very good luck on both and got to sit in empty rows each time! On the long leg, I was in a two-person row so there still wasn’t enough room to lay down… but I really appreciated the extra foot room and seat storage. I have a very difficult time sleeping on planes, and this was no exception. Instead, I watched a few movies (Deadpool II, Annihilation (which was rather different than the book which I’d already read), Aquaman, and Arctic).

I arrived in Buenos Aires at around 9:30am, and by the time the arranged taxi had delivered me to the house I’m staying in, it was around 11am. Patricia was waiting for me with a bouquet of flowers, which was so kind! I was quite tired, since I didn’t sleep on the plane, and thought I might take a short nap… but Patricia said if I wanted she’d be available to show me the ropes so I decided that’d be a better use of my (and her) time. I took a tour of the house (it’s great!) and then we made a list of what I needed to do next. One of those tasks was to pay the rest of the residency fee as I’d only placed a deposit ahead of time.

I had assumed, unfortunately erroneously, that I knew the best way for me to navigate exchanging money here, since I know how to do so in Europe. All I do in Europe is bring my debit card (in addition to having a no-foreign-transaction-fee credit card), and with the debit card I can withdraw up to 500 euros at a time for a $10 fee from a bank. It’s pretty convenient and the banks tend to have fair exchange rates. However, due to the ever-rising inflation which is rapidly outpacing the withdrawal limits here in Argentina, the most you can appear to withdraw at one time is approximately $110, and you will still pay a $10 fee for that service. Well, I’ll know to research it per country in the future! Hopefully I can use my credit card for most transactions so that I can keep my cash withdrawals relatively infrequent.

The current exchange rate is approximately 45 pesos to the dollar, which for mental math I round up to 50. The numbers get really high really fast, and I keep being scared I’m paying a lot only to do the math and realize it’s not so bad.

After withdrawing some cash from a bank, we walked to the Buenos Aires Botanical Garden (which is called the Jardín Botánico Carlos Thays in Spanish, but I think it is clearer for English audiences to use the English version of the name). Patricia introduced me to two of the workers at the garden, and one named Carolina said that if I came back the following day they could in the interim get me permission to collect some leaf samples, access to the greenhouses, and other similar access levels. Patricia and I then walked all around the garden spaces, which was actually bigger than I had thought it would be - that’s always a good thing, in my mind, as I can have extremely high expectations of botanical gardens!

By this time we were both hungry, so we had a late lunch in Quotidiano Bar de Pastas Palermo. I shared a pitcher of mint ginger lemonade with Patricia because she said it was her favorite. I didn’t dislike it, but it was weird! I don’t know if I will intentionally order it again, but perhaps. Then we walked to the Carrefour supermarket so I could buy some groceries. I was advised to buy drinking water since the locals avoid the tap water here, so I decided to get two giant containers of water and not really limit myself much on groceries either and then have them deliver it all for a $3 delivery fee. Despite being enormous, the Carrefour didn’t have as many items as I would expect, though - it’s frozen food selection was paltry, and it also had fewer fruits than I’d have liked. There are produce stores around, though, so I’ll probably try to stop in those when I can.

When we got back, I think it was around 5pm and we’d spent much of the preceding six hours on our feet walking! Patricia then took some time showing me maps of the area and helping me plan out the next few days. By 6pm, the grocery store delivery arrived and since she was still here, she helped me unpack it. Then she said goodbye, and I had a strong urge to sleep but put it off. Instead, I took a shower (and there was hot water! for the whole shower! this is unusual for traveling! but wonderful!) and then read a book for a couple hours, had a granola bar and some chips (I could not summon the energy to cook), and then went to bed right around 8:45pm. I slept until about 10:30am the next day!

The following morning I made myself breakfast and unpacked my suitcases. Patricia and I caught a bus to the botanical garden to start to acquaint me with the local bus system (el collectivo) which is altogether less organized than in other major cities in that there are no timing schedules and no signage. Patricia urged me to consider taking Ubers instead at least until I’ve taken the bus with her several times. Fortunately, an Uber to the garden is only around $1-$1.50, so that’s pretty reasonable especially since entrance to the garden is free for everyone (I assumed it would be free for me since I’m working there, but it’s unusual for such a big garden to be free for all). To walk from the house to the garden is - according to Google Maps - 33 minutes one way, so while I won’t mind doing that occasionally, I will probably not want to do that every time and unfortunately the house isn’t near a metro station.

At the garden this time I met by myself with both of the workers from the day before, but also with three new-to-me workers as well. I was provided with a vest that proclaims me to be a garden volunteer, so as to deflect annoyance at my gathering of some leaves, and also had the opportunity to be shown quickly through the tropical greenhouse. I spent a couple hours there, taking photos and a few leaves, and then left for a very late lunch. I looked up restaurants nearby on my phone, and found a vegetarian one not too far away so I headed there! It turned out to be in a mall food court which I only found out upon arriving, which is not the best for ambiance nor food quality, but it was pretty decent fare nonetheless. Then I considered catching an Uber back but figured it would probably be good to walk back to learn the lay of the land a little more. I also found a series of vegan graffiti - there was probably more in the vicinity - which I found really interesting. Argentina is known for meat and barbecue, but there is a growing worldwide interest in healthier lifestyles - both for the consumer as well as for the planet. After all the walking the day before and this day, too, my feet were quite sore! I spent the evening prepping in the studio and making dinner.

Upcoming: BROTA Artist Residency with the Buenos Aires Botanical Garden!

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I am very excited to share that I was invited to be the second artist in residence ever at the BROTA International Residency Program in collaboration with the Buenos Aires Botanical Garden (Jardín Botánico Carlos Thays) this summer!

I will be at BROTA for a month-long residency spanning May 15 - June 15, 2019. I’m slated to have two exhibitions, one in the Buenos Aires Botanical Garden and one in the BROTA exhibition space. It’s a fantastic opportunity to focus a new body of work on botanical subject matter and I’m also looking forward to getting a chance to experience Argentina for the first time!

Estoy muy emocionada de compartir que voy a atender el programa de residencia internacional BROTA con el Jardín Botánico Carlos Thays de Buenos Aires este verano. Voy a quedar allí un mes - desde el 15 de mayo hasta el 15 de junio de 2019. El plan es tener dos exposiciones, una en el Jardín Botánico y otra en el espacio de exhibición de BROTA. ¡Es una oportunidad fantástica para enfocarme en un nuevo cuerpo de trabajo sobre un tema botánico, y también voy a experimentar la cultura argentina por primera vez!

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