I believe it was at the National SPE Conference in New Orleans a couple of years ago that I discovered Jimmy Fike’s work. J.W. Fike’s Photographic Survey of the Wild Edible Botanicals of the North American Continent, a continent-spanning collection of photographs about wild edible plants, has been in progress for about a decade. To create the images, Fike excavates the plant, arranges it in the studio, and uses photography and digital illustration to render the edible parts of the plant in color, while the remaining parts read as contact prints. To me, the plants instantly reference the botanical cyanotypes of Anna Atkins, with a twist that’s dramatic both visually and conceptually.
From the artist’s statement: While this type of art may appear atavistic and indeed references historical approaches to understanding and utilizing nature, its redeployment, in this contemporary era, is vitally relevant to environmental issues. These edible plants grow all around us, in yards, alleys, ditches, and empty lots. Each testifies to our symbiotic evolution with all of life, and functions as both poetic metaphor and concrete proof of our intimate tether to the natural world. It is my hope that this art foments contemplative wonderment by offering viewers both information and insights that if realized kindle a reconnection to the natural world and a mystical counterbalance to scientific objectivism.
I prefer mounting exhibitions that feature plants found within that same community. My place-based approach to photography signals an interesting shift in configuring the medium’s relation to subject, audience and site. I’ve moved from a detached model that overly aestheticizes, commodifies and romanticizes landscape to work that actively engages the community by utilizing relevant contextual information, interdisciplinary research, and an elegant if slightly hypnotic aesthetic. These elements all work together to offer knowledge and conjure a glimpse of deeper ecological truths. My layered approach to creation offers multiple entry points and a diverse range of engagement. Currently, I’ve photographed over ninety plants in seven different states and plan to continue the survey until I’ve created a collection that spans the continental United States.
I hope the resulting catalogue will serve as an archive for an uncertain ecological future, reliable guide for foraging, and contain meditative symbols in communion with philosophical, spiritual and ecological truths.
Visit artist's site: jimfike.blogspot.com