LC: I am also pretty hands-off in my garden, which makes me think of permaculture. There are some things I must take action on, but I prefer going with the flow instead of trying to force things into a particular shape. My project Uncultivated is an examination of the dilemma of what do we cultivate and what do we not cultivate? That it is an arbitrary line.
I don’t like the word invasive because it shifts the blame to the plants, and they’re not the problem. I think a healthier attitude is to grow the things you want, and those will crowd out the things you don’t want instead of constantly pulling things and having bare stretches of land. Introduce the plants you do want, and they’ll take care of the landscape for you. What is native is also changing because the climate is changing.
ASE: My drawing series Invasive initially came out of moving to Baltimore in the height of summer in 2015 and seeing green on top of green. I recognized these were different plants, but I didn’t know what I was looking at until I began to research and learn about the prevalence of non-native plants in those disturbed areas right on the edge of the road. I tried to imagine what the landscape might look like without them, but also recognize them as very much a part of the environment as it is now.
It’s a complex thing. Certain introduced plants threaten the balance of native ecosystems, but with the changing climate, these species may be what can survive here now. I think about how farmers were paid to plant kudzu [in the 1940s] to prevent erosion… What’s the equivalent thing that we’re doing today?
LC: Over time, my work has become more ephemeral. What art is to me, the core of it, is social exchange. With Portrait Garden, getting women who were incarcerated to engage with the natural environment highlighted how working with plants can be healing. Engaging the community in which the work is being shown is important to me to extend its functionality. I want to have an impact on the world in a genuine way, so often I’m creating work in the public realm.
ASE: The environment shapes your life, especially in childhood, but always. Growing up in Arizona, I spent a lot of time outdoors. It took me a long time to appreciate the beauty and life in the desert. Now I really love it; it’s amazing how much can survive in extreme temperatures with such little water. My graduate thesis was about remembering the landscape of the desert, but I haven’t worked with it directly since. Having lived in Boston, and now in Baltimore for the last seven years, all these different environments continue to influence me.