The Botany of Living – Louise Russell and Douglas Stockdale

By Gerhard Clausing •

Yesterday I was able to witness a particularly delightful set of artist talks, via Zoom, put on by the Photographer’s Eye Gallery in Escondido (which, by the way, also offers workshops and has a traditional darkroom). Featuring two artists from Southern California, Louise Russell and Douglas Stockdale, and moderated by the energetic and personable Executive Director of the gallery, Donna Cosentino, it was marked by a unifying theme: the response of the artists to nature and the effects this has on their depiction of plants. Implied were issues dealing with conserving the environment, utilizing its gifts, and understanding both growth and decline that is part of all life cycles, especially as all this impacts us humans.

Louise Russell, in her series “Ways of Knowing,” integrates techniques acquired from the Museum of Natural History in San Diego in joining gathered plant portions as companion art next to her impressive layered photographs of plant groups found in areas full of the spirits of native inhabitants, family members, and other parts of nature. The impact and meaning of these plant images is further enhanced by background information and purposeful prose, healing power data, and emotional responses. The images exude a love of nature and a caring attitude aimed at preserving our environment and honoring the interdependence of living things. One can see in each image that she feels the heartbeat and breath of nature around her. Proceeds from the printed catalog are slated for environmental causes.

Douglas Stockdale, in his series “Memory Pods,” relates the stages and impact of human decline (dementia) to moods, appearances, and stages in the life cycle of the aloe vera plant, which is also known for its healing powers. The images shown below, as metaphors, illustrate some of the emotions and states of individuals who are affected by declining memories, as well as those of bystanders – angst (trepidation, anxiety, fear), separation, (inter)dependence, and more. When the seed pods are empty at some point, are the memories (seeds), though gone, spread elsewhere? What moods do the images engender in the viewer? This series is a particularly creative approach to anthropomorphic artistry: applying human perceptions to the interpretation of plant life around us. The archival prints are on metallic paper that gives them a special luminosity.

The exhibition of works by both artists runs through March 20. Due to Covid, the gallery is currently open on Saturdays, or by appointment. Donna lives close by and is happy to come to the gallery when needed, by prior arrangement. The recording of the talk may also be made available. More details here. Highly recommended!

Louise Russell:

Douglas Stockdale:

Articles and photographs published in the PhotoExchange Journal may not be reproduced without the permission of the PhotoExchange Journal staff and the photographer(s).

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