Portrait of a Lady Fern
In Portrait of a Lady Fern, this species of fern (Athyrium filix-femina) has been embroidered over a photograph of the old-growth forest in Odell Park.
The association of ferns and femininity is longstanding. The Ancient Greeks gave the lady fern its name because its reproductive structures (spore clusters) are hidden on the underside of the fronds, a trait considered feminine. In Victorian England, fern collecting became a great rage, mostly practiced by women. Collecting specimens for their ferneries was a rare activity that Victorian society permitted women to do on their own.
This species is indeed one of the most intricate and delicate of forest ferns. As I was embroidering, I became very aware of its structure, how it is composed of parts that resemble the whole, as if the fern is made of many tiny ferns.
In my work I consider the interconnectedness of all living things. I think about the cycles of growth and decay in a healthy forest, and how everything in the forest plays a role in its regeneration. The forest floor is an especially vibrant space, where mushrooms, moss, lichen, leaf litter, insects, flowers, and ferns are clustered and dispersed. I see the forest floor as a richly patterned carpet that supports and nourishes all forest life.