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Return to: Richard Solomon

Artist Statement

I am an artist who works exclusively and intimately with plant materials. My work is a return to art's first canvas - the earth - and to our planet's original storytellers: the seeds.

Everything I use in my art grows "From a Seed." My studio is a Natural History Department of Botanical Wonders - the hut of the Seed Shaman.

My story of creating art from gathered plant materials - seeds, grasses, pods, flowers, branches, bark, roots and leaves - began as a means of reflecting on the profound impact my relationship to the plant world has brought to my life.

Back in the early 1980s, suffering burnout from my high pressure marketing firm with its Fortune 500-laced client list, I sought refuge in walking - walking on my land in rural upstate New York. My awakening to the plant world had just started to unfold while I was working as a consultant for the World Wildlife Fund. On one of those walks, I saw a clump of dried grasses I hadn't noticed before. I stared at it for a long time…leaned down…pulled out of the ground. I held it up to the sky and asked, "How can I make my way in the world using this beauty?"

Since that moment, I have dedicated myself for the last twenty years to exploring and learning from my on-going collaboration with plant materials; all of their ensuing forms are revealed in my work. Every step of my artistic process is embodied with my reverence for the Nature, beginning with my search for materials. When I collect a plant part for the first time, I say, "Thank you, beauty."

Henry David Thoreau wrote: "Adopt the pace of nature; her secret is patience." Through the practice of gathering and collecting I have developed both sixth and seventh senses when in nature. As I walk in the forests, deserts and mountains of the Southwest, I am always scanning for new shapes, colors and textures, for my next magical find.

Serendipitous meetings with new plant materials make for an unpredictable and exciting journey as each new piece of art is born. The plant materials I collect in various stages of their life cycle were all once seeds. Sometimes two plant parts will sit across my studio for months before they find their way to each other in a piece. I view myself as the artistic conduit, or steward, who patiently waits for the relationship between the parts to make itself known, to pass from each entity to me and then into a new piece of art.

My work celebrates the reunion of people and plants. All of my pieces are works of art but also sacred objects containing ceremony and ritual.

My flat-pressed pieces are one way of looking at the seed world. They convey light, simplicity, as well as the complex patterns of Nature, which can be still and in motion simultaneously.

From working on flat-pressed pieces, I jumped into collecting dimensional plant parts. My work took on the character of primitive artifacts. My hands led me deep into another time. My sculptures are made with different types of plant parts. Everything is tied, wrapped, sewn or bound with strips of the fibrous yucca leaf. Never string, wire, glue or anything unnatural.

I am not a botanist. I know little about the science of plants. I am an artist who has learned about the deep magic of seeds. My art explores that magic's potential, its' vocabulary, the stilled and fluid moments, the immediate and the infinite.

Plants are a living tribe, an indigenous tribe. Plants see life differently. They have different customs. They speak another language. My art is an attempt to translate their language so that the true story of the planet can be told. Each seed, root or pod contains the earth's history.

Like tribal artifacts of native people, or a seedling reaching toward the light, my art crosses the threshold into magic and reminds us that we are all indigenous.

In returning art to its original canvas - the earth - I have found a secret that I would like to share with you: In my art, as in my life, I never meet a seed, tree or plant with a bad heart.

© 2010