My Jean/ne: The Spirit of the Flowers Keep Watch > Spirit of the Flowers Keep Watch: Traces of an Explorer

Spirit of the Flowers
digital photograph
16 x 20 in.
2024
Heracles & Omphale after François Boucher, i
digital photograph
20 x 16 in.
2023
Heracles & Omphale after François Boucher, ii
digital photograph
20 x 16 in.
2023
In Pursuit of Venus (Infected) after Lisa Reihana, i
digital photograph
20 x 16 in.
2024
 The Dodo after Roelandt Savery, i
digital photograph
20 x 16 in.
2023
The Dodo after Roelandt Savery, ii
digital photograph
20 x 16 in.
2023
Omdurman Woman after Pacita Abad, i
digital photograph
20 x 16 in.
2024
Omdurman Woman after Pacita Abad, iI
digital photograph
16 x 20 in.
2024
Contingente (Contingent) after Adriana Varejão, i
digital photograph
20 x 16 in.
2024
Contingente (Contingent) after Adriana Varejão, ii
digital photograph
16 x 20 in.
2024

*Spirit of the Flowers Keep Watch: Traces of an Explorer *

To better understand the history and geography of Jeanne Baret Dubernat's story, in the spring of 2023, I looked to art history, beginning with artists of Jeanne's lifetime, like Élisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun and François Boucher. I also sought paintings that presented material evidence of Jeanne's world. While searching for French naval vessels, I found William Turner's painting of the horrific massacre aboard the British slave ship, the Zong. In 1781 more than 130 enslaved African people were killed by the Zong's crew. Seems the owners had insured the Africans as cargo and were worth more dead, than alive.

What other horrors were lurking within the oceans on which Baret traveled?

I eventually narrowed my project to thirteen artists--eleven paintings, one video, and one sculptural installation--whose work dates from the early 17th century to the 21st. To me, these works echo or reinforce Jeanne's story in some way.

I've chosen still-life floral arrangements as my medium. I use bold colorful flowers like the ones Jeanne may have experienced. But unlike Jeanne's, my materials are plastic, artificial flowers sourced from big box merchandisers like The Dollar Store and WalMart.

For the photographs, I create compositions that interpret each artist's work. I then make photographs of the displays as well as photograph my source image (painting or installation) somewhere within my own home. In this way, I hope to ingest Jeanne’s world while pointing to the world's many incompatible truths: beauty and terror, pleasure and pain, and the ways and methods that artists, through the centuries, have taught us to deal and survive.

Artists Referenced
Adriana Varejão
Candice Lin
Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun
Firelei Báez
François Boucher
Kehinde Wiley
Leonor Fini
Lisa Reihana
Pacita Abad
Paul Gauguin
Roberto Matta
Roelandt Savery
William Turner