Green Thumbs and Then Some

The relationship shared by the female body and the natural landscape has been a subject for artists both literary and graphic. The figure of the Earth Mother, John Donne's poetry and Georgia O'Keefe's sensual floral paintings have all explored the shared similarities of the female form and the natural world. Janaina Tschäpe also works with this same idea, but on a macroscopic level. Tschäpe creates whimsical, somewhat botanical costumes, garbs female models in these creations, then plants these femmetanicals in natural settings, where they are photographed and videotaped. The resulting images are not so much an immersion of the female form in a natural setting — how can two organisms so symbiotically connected be more than whole, after all — but a revelation of just how deeply bonded are the woman and the world. The artifice of the costumes does nothing to distract from this union; in fact, the fantastical biomorphic shapes of the creations enhance the underlying mythology of both elements. Here is mystery and seductiveness, color and fantasy — the symbolic nature of their relationship explodes forth from the costume, drawing the attention to that locus of the Earth and the Mother.

Janaina Tschäpe: Melantropics, a collection of Tschäpe's work made partially in the Missouri Botanical Garden last spring, opens with a free reception from 7 to 9 p.m. this evening (Friday, September 15) at the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis (3750 Washington Boulevard; 314-535-4660 or Also opening this evening are Larry Krone's Artist/Entertainer series and Michael Paul Britto's film project Dirrrty Harriet Tubman. Tschäpe discusses her work at 1 p.m. on Saturday, September 16, and all work is on display through Sunday, December 31.
Tuesdays-Sundays. Starts: Sept. 15. Continues through Dec. 31

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