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Developing an idea

I don’t even like telling people that there are paintings in the flower work because in a sense it is not important. It is if you want to know how to make them, but probably you wouldn’t be able to make them anyway because I made them. You make your own weird thing.

– Stephanie Torbert

“This is the very first of a whole series of flowers that I did over ten years,” says Stephanie Torbert about her photograph Protean Landscape. “ I did it just as an experiment and I liked it so much that it led to ten more years of work.” The experiment began as painting and drawing, and eventually Torbert combined her landscapes with flowers to create something totally new.

Protea is the name of the flower in the picture, but “Protean” means changeable, variable, assuming different forms or characters. Proteus was a god of classical mythology who could take on different forms at will.

The title of the picture is a play on words that describes Torbert’s sense of the natural world. “I am very much concerned about the environment and the connections between what is very beautiful and what is very sinister,” she muses. “People have moved things all over the world and because of moving things they have created environments that aren’t really natural. Instead they’re threatening. The combination of a natural form with an unnatural backdrop makes something that appears to be natural.”


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Minneapolis Institute of Arts