Herbal Folklore: Erica Peebus Spies Myth and Magic in the Garden
Editor’s note: an earlier version of this post ran in 2022. We’re publishing this update in honor of our 2023 exhibition, Art and the Environment, which explores contemporary issues involving climate change, invasive species, and increasingly fragile ecosystems.
Dark but never dour, Erica Peebus’ recent paintings dissolve the boundaries between plants and humans with magical realism. Blessed with a lingering interest in herbalism, Erica illustrates the symbiotic relationship between herself and the natural world, painting a gallery’s worth of medicinal folklore and tea cabinet staples: stinging nettle, dainty chamomile buds, and pain-relieving bleeding heart flowers.
Painted in a didactic style reminiscent of scientific field studies, Erica’s work reflects her love of research, knowledge, and documentation. “This series of paintings has been a pursuit of awareness into the world of plant spirits and the unseen forces that exist in and beyond the natural world,” Erica writes. With lunar phases and seasonal cycles as an influence, Erica exposes the underlying rhythm of life on planet Earth. Despite the scientific influence, her work is deeply personal—Erica compares herself to the misunderstood dandelion, a medicinal plant loaded with antioxidants. “Drink its tea to increase your psychic awareness, and make a wish before blowing its seeds,” the artist recommends.
Erica’s work encourages us to actively participate in the world by seeing potential for intimacy in overlooked places. “We live in a world of reciprocity where every natural being—be it soil, mineral, plant, insect, animal, or human—plays a role in an important relationship of give and take,” she writes. “It is within this careful balance of symbiosis where we find health and wholeness.”
Scroll through to view Erica’s paintings, then head over to NOT REAL ART’s April 2023 exhibition, Art and the Environment, to see related works from environmental artists.
“Drink [dandelion] tea to increase your psychic awareness, and make a wish before blowing its seeds.” —Erica Peebus
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All photos published with permission of the artist(s).
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