Navigating the space between one’s environment and personal mythology, Sarah Bedford’s painting practice explores the concept of the nature as a vessel for transformation and growth from within. Her interest in botany, regenerative seed banks, medieval and colonial gardens, graveyards and classical poetry informs much of her visual language, through the symbolic and abstract depiction of rare plants, flora and their ecosystems.
Bedford’s highly intuitive process, involves generating experimental works on paper as preliminary studies for her larger paintings. Working in gouache, pastel and colored pencil, her recent botanical explorations of night-blooming, anthropomorphic-looking floral were inspired by Emily Dickinson’s poetry and herbarium archived at the Harvard Library as well as scientific research in Siberian labs germinating plants from 32,000 year old Ice Age seeds discovered in an arctic Squirrel chamber.
Aside from a fascination of ancient permafrost seedlings, Bedford spent many years working as a professional florist. The process of moving color, shape and form quickly - with paint, is not dissimilar to the visual poetry of flower arranging but in a two dimensional space. The resulting works on paper evoke a metaphorical science “lab” that is part reference library, part secret garden and a conceptual “seed bank” for Bedford’s vast array of historic and futuristic-looking floral imagery.
In her paintings, she merges these hybridized visuals onto canvas through chiaroscuro lighting, richly hued colors, daubs of oil pastel and bold brushwork. Bedford’s diverse archive of somnolent gothic blooms, extinct angiosperms, and supersized glacier lilies, suggests a netherworld of brooding activity, decay and mutant transformation. Perhaps leading one to reflect upon our fragile environment within the rapidly changing climate: How can one individual actively cultivate or re-imagine nature with purpose, rather than actively or passively destroying it? What will the world look like in 100 years or 40,000 years? These are the questions the artist seems to debate herself, as witnessed in the strange new forms searching for hope in the darkness underfoot.
Photo Credit - Willy Somma