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Pack Art Backstory: Purple Perfume Nicotiana

Join us for a discussion with seed pack artist Carrie Lederer!

Based in Oakland, California, painter and multi-media installation artist Carrie Lederer exhibits her vibrant, richly-layered work across the United States, inviting audiences to appreciate the strange and wonderful patterns found all around us. Using paint, fabric, fur, glass eyes, glitter, and more, Lederer creates worlds that seem to be in constant flux between realism and abstraction, micro and macro–to illuminate patterns and systems that normally go unnoticed.

Carrie's joyfully disorienting landscapes have appeared as public commissions for Facebook and various museums–and now they can be enjoyed as seed pack art!  Using acrylic and gouache on paper, her painting, Purple Perfumed Nicotiana in the Cosmos at Dawn, places fragrant Nicotiana between micro and macro perspectives to convey the heady scents and delicate forms that exist in the mysterious realms that surround us. View the print version of this painting here. Wanting to learn more about Carrie's art process and the unique point of view she brings to her work, we sent her a few questions. Read on for Carrie's fascinating perspective on art and the natural world. 

Purple Perfume Nicotiana Art Pack

Carrie, Why do you make art? Why is art important?

From cave paintings to the Sistine Chapel to Frida Kahlo’s self-portraits, we humans have been making art that has enriched communities in all periods, in every part of the world. For me, the experience of making or viewing art creates a deeper interaction with our fellow communities and global cultures. Art illuminates ideas, and it’s a reflection of what’s happening in society. Art is a bridge into another world or a transformative experience. It’s educational. Art can also help us remember the past or honor an ideal, and it helps to express our shared values and concerns to future generations. 

What influences your art?

My daily, up-close encounter with nature is the fifty-foot journey through our family garden, from my home to the studio. For me, the garden becomes a metaphor for the universe. Other sources of inspiration include Indian miniatures, Persian rugs, biology, and fractals.

My current work consists of ornate compositions that use a pattern-based topography to portray ideas about land and our natural world. I use paint, fabric, fur, flock, glitter, glass eyes and more to construct images that are simultaneously ordered and in disarray, realistic and abstract. The format is dense, intertwined, sometimes haphazard, and bursting with energy – it reminds me of all that I love about planting seeds and watching them take over a space.

The science of fractals and patterns of chaos are particularly important to my work. Fractals are complex geometric figures made up of patterns that repeat—each time on a smaller scale, and each smaller version is a “self-similar” form. These are nature’s patterns, really. At first glance, fractals might appear as a tangled disorder, but there is an structured composition embedded into this dynamic system that is all around us, particularly in our gardens. I respond to these natural wonderments and I’m charmed and fascinated by nature’s intrinsic capacity to create and reproduce patterns.

What details or elements do you want folks to notice in this piece? 

With my artwork Purple Perfumed Nicotiana in the Cosmos at Dawn, I want to highlight the magic of this extraordinary flower species, and also take the viewers into a different physical space. I strive to immerse people of all ages with interactive art that raises the collective conscious about what is hiding in plain sight in our environment. I also want my art to encourage all of us to consider the earth in new ways. I want us all to feel inspired to tread lightly.

What do you hope this piece communicates about the variety or seed story?

I was thrilled to be commissioned to depict the Purple Perfume Nicotiana, a beloved, old-fashioned and showy garden annual. The striking flowers are elegant and sculptural, with long tubes that are favored by hummingbirds and large moths. The drama of the Nicotiana, with its profusion of blooms taking center stage, is the perfect anchor for the colorful tangle of ordered chaos found in my artworks. 

And then there is scent and all the ideas that emerge when you close your eyes and put your nose to a gorgeous bloom. The deep pink-violet flowers are very fragrant, especially at dusk and dawn, an aspect that dovetails nicely with my abstracted imagery of the night skies. I am intrigued by what we can’t see. What are the forces of nature that draw out the fragrance of this lovely bloom at night? 

Any thoughts on the relationship between art and seeds/ plants/ gardening/ farming or food?

I’m interested in micro and macro perspectives to convey the bold and delicate forms that exist in the mysterious realms that surround us. My imagery is meant to transport viewers across abstracted land and sky, illuminating a path to the deep, dark recesses of our universe.

My artistic practice delves into the beauty and wonder of nature, which encourages positive interaction with the world around us. The implied message is to see the environment – from the soil in our hands to the cosmos that are beyond us, as part of a greater whole that we are all a part of. I carry this message through everything I do in the studio.

What an important message. Thank you, Carrie, for bringing this vision of interconnectedness to your art for Purple Perfume Nicotiana. 

To get regular updates on Carrie's work, follow her in Instagram here, or visit her website.

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