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"A lot of my work is about… walking that edge between two worlds."

“There is this old Joni Mitchell song,” says Stephanie Torbert, “that goes, ‘They took all the trees, put them in a tree museum, and charged all the people a dollar and a half just to see ‘em.’ That lyric runs through a lot of my work in some sense. It’s about how we change the world in strange ways, how we perceive the alienation we feel, and a kind of playfulness along with the alienation.”

This photograph and its title suggest that combination of alienation and playfulness. The lighting that gives the blossom its inner glow and the strange landscape in the background makes this banana plant look as though it is flowering on Mars. The word “wand” is in the title because Torbert wanted to add an element of magic to the flower, and the suggestion of its ability to transform itself and its surroundings.

“ I worked for many years as a naturalist in a wildflower garden,” explains Torbert, “and although these pictures don’t relate to that work I became aware of the environment and what we are doing to it.” Attraction to the beauty of nature and fear for the endangered environment comes together in Torbert’s flower series. “A lot of my work is about that,” she says, “walking that edge between two worlds.” The chorus to that old Joni Mitchell song? “Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you got ‘till it’s gone? They paved paradise, put up a parking lot.” (Joni Michell, Big Yellow Taxi, 1974)


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Minneapolis Institute of Arts