BOOK OF SHADOWS
in collaboration with Elizabeth Parks Kibbey
The 17th century saw the innovation and popularization of the floral still life painting in Europe and its colonies. By the end of the same century, the Salem witch trials were occurring in America. Witchcraft includes among its rituals the use of botanicals dried and kept in bottles or carried in pouches, bathed in or brewed as tea. Plants are used both symbolically and medicinally. The names of wildflowers, such as cattail and foxglove, and less familiarly, crow’s foot, donkey’s eyes, and snake’s tongue, lead to visions of cauldrons with real animal parts stewing inside. Women were put in positions of power within the religion of Witchcraft, and were killed in far greater numbers than men during the Salem witch trials.
The still lifes in this series are comprised of the ingredients in various botanical spells. The ingredients are used here in their most floral state: poppies instead of poppy seeds, a saffron bulb instead of dried stigmas, and so on. The arrangements turn these spells towards the domestic, and present a less threatening, more palatable femininity.
When the idea for this series came to me, I knew I wanted to work with someone who had a skill with arrangements and knowledge of botanical material that I could not approximate on my own. Elizabeth Parks Kibbey’s passion for flowers had led her first to work as a florist, but later to create experimental large-scale floral sculpture. A series of conversations engendered a shared understanding, both of the concept and aesthetic for the project. The images that make up Book of Shadows represent our creative synthesis.