Fellowships 2025

The COVID epidemic led me to question what it means to breathe and to understand oxygen. It became clear- to study oxygen meant to also investigate carbon’s role in life on this planet. I dedicated my drawings and paintings to this examination, hoping I could provide context and imagery for the complicated science of climate change. Through extensive readings of plant science, I landed back into my very own field of scholarship. In the humanities, an emergent field of Critical Plant Studies is leading to questions about the role of language, human activity and ethics within ecosystems of the vegetal. My work as an artist is now involved with this discourse. I specifically focus on our human understanding of, and relationship to, living organisms such as plants, algae, fungi and microbes.

I am fascinated by the reproduction of the cell; the knowledge that a plant cell wall has a rigidity that mammals lack, the existence of a chloroplast and the magic of photosynthesis. My work is an attempt to represent the vegetal as agents of their own, not just as aesthetic objects, to transform the abstract rhetoric of climate change into material reality.

Can our human endeavors decenter the human and a new narrative of earth be through the vegetal? Can plants have rights? What are the ethics of plant representation?

My recent work is an investigation and negotiation of these questions through drawings and paintings based on my own photographs of fallen trees. These downed giants are now prevalent from lack of effective forest management and the strong winds of climate change in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area of Minnesota, my childhood and family home. These trees rooted on the thinnest layers of soil – built through time in the lichenized, peat covered 2.7 billion year old glacier bedrock. I collected the images at the southern edge of the Boreal forest with the knowledge that this tree line is changing, marching north, threatening peat bogs.The works are layered and researched and offer a global view of the plant and human relationship through tiny details. In the drawings and paintings, tree roots appear on the surface and cellular, microscopic structures are embedded within. I celebrate the life renewing on the massive tree roots through the survival of lichens and seedlings. At the same time, hidden narratives of human impact are alive within the imagery.

lauraaholayoung.com

2024