“Is that laser-etched?”
“Queen of the Night? Like, from The Magic Flute?”
The above? Bits of conversation that’ve come up thus far in December surrounding Alexandra Bower’s exhibition, “Before Dawn”… and to answer them simply and in order: Pyrography is wood-burning (“fire writing”), NO, and, also….no.
Alexandra Bower’s incredibly detailed, scorched renderings of desert flora and fauna immediately trump our expectations of the human hand, but with a more measured viewing, the delicate graphite under-drawing is visible and the inherent ‘life-of-line’ found in a hand-drawn visual translation can be seen in every piece. Each wing nearly flutters.
The locus of the show itself is directly addressed by the show’s title.
For a single captivating night during the hot summer months, cactus flora known as Night Cereus, or Queen of the Night, choose to bloom. Creatures eager for sustenance pollinate them during the night. As the sun rises to heat the following day, the blooms fold, collapse into themselves, and fall from the cactus. What began in the night as often unnoticed white blossoms ends as a black massscorched by the summer sun, but pregnant with possibility for the coming year.“Before Dawn” is a study of these exquisite species of flowers and of the creatures that are ready, on that one night, to pollinate them. Together, flowers and creatures continue the cycle year after year, but only one night at a time.
Bowers often works with fish & game commissions, universities, and botanical parks to secure time with live and preserved specimens. The Night Cereus bloom proves tricky to schedule for, as Lee Mason, a Director of Tohono Chul Park, notes “We’ve been studying the Night-Blooming Cactus for over 20 years now and we still don’t know what triggers the bloom. The best we can figure is there is some type of chemical communication amongst the cacti.” People, like Bowers, who want to view this one-night flowering sign-up for digital alerts for day-of notification. The NBC is difficult in other respects as well; it cannot self-pollinate. “Since the cactus cannot self-pollinate, the plants must all bloom on the same evening to ensure pollination, usually by hawk moths. The more blooms that are open, the greater the chances of pollination.”
It’s this magic, this rare and unpredictable synchronicity that occurs late on one single evening, that drew Bowers to these subjects. She also notes that she was compelled to somehow archive and preserve these flowers and their pollinators as they are dwindling in numbers with the impacts of human encroachment on desert habitats. Come by the reception this Friday to see and celebrate Bowers’ work– and be sure to ask her about the other featured evening beauty, the Datura or Moonflower! It’s a toxic beauty.
“Before Dawn” by Alexandra Bowers
Exhibition: December 1-31, 2014
Reception for the Artist: Friday Dec 12th, from 7-9pm