Artist Jimmy Fike has been working since 2007 to create a photographic archive depicting North America’s rich trove of wild edible flora, creating plates in which the edible parts of the specimen are illustrated in color. The resulting images are both scientific and ethereal, offering viewers both a clearer understanding and a deeper sense of connection with the natural world.
“The project has taken me to fifteen different states, so far, and I’ve amassed a collection of over one hundred and fifty specimens. By employing a system that makes it easy to identify both the plant and its edible parts, the images work as reliable guides for foraging. This concrete, functional, egalitarian aspect of the project directs viewers to free food that can be used for sustenance, or as raw material for creative economies.
Beyond functionality, I construct images that operate on multiple levels theoretically and perceptually. Upon longer viewing the botanicals begin to transcend the initial appearance of scientific illustration – they writhe and pulsate trying to communicate with you about their edible parts while hovering over an infinite black expanse. The scientific yields to something potentially spiritual as the viewer begins to experience our symbiotic evolution with the plant kingdom. I often find myself marveling at the intricate web of overlapping systems and sheer length of time – incomprehensible fathoms of time – it took to develop this symbiosis.
To achieve a layered aesthetic the photographs are meticulously constructed. I photograph multiple specimens of the same plant and combine the best elements from each to create an archetypal rendering. By judiciously rearranging, scaling, and warping I can vivify the plant and turn the ground into space. This subtle reference to shamanic scrying and other mystical forms of seeing nudges the work towards the numinous. I hope viewers carry this numinous experience back out into the landscape, into their communities and see the plants that surround them in a fresh, wonder-filled way.
This work offers a dose of something palliative for the ills of alienation – a sense of connection to a certain place, a certain ecosystem – a type of belonging. With this in mind, I plan on continuing the survey until I’ve amassed an expansive enough cross-section of the botanical life on the continent to mount biome-specific exhibitions anywhere within the continental United States. After years of work, I’m excited to be approaching this goal. I hope the photographic survey can serve as a historical archive of botanical life during an era of extreme change, and provide viewers all over the country an opportunity to feel the type of bond with their landscapes that will encourage health, engender wonder, help identify free food, and most importantly, inspire greater concern for environmental issues.”
ABOUT THE ARTIST:
Jimmy Fike was born in Birmingham, Alabama in 1970. He earned a BA in Art from Auburn University and an MFA in Photography from the Cranbrook Academy of Art. Currently, he works as a Residential Art Faculty Member at Estrella Mountain College in Avondale, Arizona.
His photographic work endeavors to push the tradition of landscape photography into the realms of socially and ecologically engaged practice. His series on wild edible plants has been exhibited extensively across the USA, featured in the LA Times, Washington Post, Mother Jones and accepted into the permanent collection of the George Eastman House Museum. His book on Wild Edible Plants is being published by Indiana University Press and will be released in February of 2022.