My Jeanne Baret
My Jeanne Baret (2018-ongoing) is a research-based project concerning the life of Jeanne Baret, an 18th-century French peasant woman who, disguised as a man, became the first woman to circumnavigate the globe.
For this project, I'm collecting personal, natural, and cultural fragments that connect Baret's story with my own. One day I hope to realize Baret's story as an installation and an artist book.
My love for the vibrant bougainvillea vine led me to Baret. An avid herbswoman, Baret was the first westerner to identify the plant. Her lover, the official botanist on Baret's naval voyage, Philibert de Commerson, named the plant for the ship's captain, Louis-Antoine de Bougainville. Baret's own name was hardly known until writer Glynis Ridley's 2010 biography, The Discovery of Jeanne Baret. I became obsessed with Baret's story: her resiliency, her fortitude. Ridley believes, based on surviving documentation, that Baret was raped by her French crew members in New Ireland. Many scholars disagree. This too fascinates and infuriates me. I will try not to romanticize her accomplishments or her pain...Ridley's or Baret's or my own.
Today the plant Baret helped botanize, the ubiquitous bougainvillea, is grown throughout the world. But like so many stories of women throughout history, the fullness of her story may never be known or told.
No matter what, I will continue to feed this lake.
Currently (Spring 2023) I am interpreting contemporary and historical paintings that refer to the 18th-century, colonialism, and postcolonialism as floral arrangements. Unlike Baret, I use artificial flowers and plants in my designs which I source from big box merchandisers like Dollar Stores and WalMart. I create and photograph my floral interpretations and place the prints within my home, creating, once again, a connection with my source material, Baret and me.