By Danielle Kalamaras
Expressionist painting meets botany in the artwork of Claire Haik. The dodder is a genus of about 100 species of yellow, orange, red or at times green parasitic plants. As a plant that survives solely off the well-being of surrounding plants, an antagonism ensues questioning our love for nature. The homeostasis of an ecological niche may falter under the brutal attacks of dodders, but without the cycle of life our world would only be inundated with Utopian dreams. This series by Haik explores the push and pull between artistic representation and scientific understanding.
Haik's work is featured in the online exhibition Un-Natural Nature, curated by SciArt Center's Arts Program coordinator Danielle Kalamaras. Read on to learn more about her artistic and scientific inspirations.
Claire Haik Artist Statement:
"A small sinkhole in a field is the result of a network of underground caves. The apparent chaos of a tangle of brush is actually highly ordered growth determined by the plants’ genetic code. An orange colored vine must be a parasite because plants need to absorb the red wavelengths of light to photosynthesize. Informed by scientific propensities, my abstractions of natural imagery show the hidden processes that exist beneath the visual exterior. Technology and science feed our understanding of these underlying mechanisms and change our relationship to the natural world.
As our understanding of reality changes so do our depictions of the world. This body of work explores the similarities between scientific and artistic representation. At the root, both choose certain variables while excluding others. The selected variables and the symbols used to represent them completely alter the meaning of the investigation.
This series of paintings examines the inherent distortions created in all representations and their abstractions. Displaced Dodder shows a parasitic plant— the Golden Dodder— floating in space, isolated from its host and the surrounding ecosystem, showing both the uses and limitations of controlled laboratory examination and the incomplete vision of reality it provides. In the companion piece, Deleted Dodder, the environment around the parasitic plant is shown but the plant itself is absent. In its place is a highly abstracted system of symbols and colors to show a conceptual map of the plants expenditure of energy as it grows and searches for its host. Finally, Beneath the Sinkhole allows us to peer down into the crust of our planet showing geological processes that can literally drop the ground out from underneath our feet.
Throughout time, people have gazed out into approaching storms or across vast deserts and realized their own fragility and unimportance—a feeling of awe and wonder that many philosophers associated with the sublime. Today, science allows us look below the visible surface of the world into the complex system of endless consumption and redistribution that includes every atom, star, and living thing. We cannot help but catch our breath in awe of the universe that utterly dwarfs imagination and eludes metaphorical representation."
Visit the artist's website to learn more about her artwork.
Click here to view the online exhibition Un-Natural Nature curated by Danielle Kalamaras which features the artwork of 30 SciArt Center Members.