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This practice-as-research PhD explores the inextricable entanglement of botanical art with liberatory queer (and) decolonial (and) feminist artmaking practices and violent legacies. Flowers, present in our gardens, parks, roadsides and homes, are often overlooked as benign presences, an Enlightenment-influenced attitude that names plants as passive entities (Wandersee and Schussler). Within this research project, flowers, as living plants, painted objects and/or metaphors, act as companions in praxis and have a direct impact on the research, ethics, aesthetics and structure of the project. The central aim of this project is not to redeem or redress the violent history of botanical art, but rather, through a succession of illustrated and interwoven arguments, to illuminate how dwelling with the history and present of botanical art, through a form of slow scholarship, can offer a new botanically entangled approach to academic study as a form of queer (and) decolonial (and) feminist world making (Sara Ahmed). 


The original artworks included in the project take the form of contemporary  illuminated manuscripts, in which botanical paintings are interwoven with citations from queer (and) decolonial (and) feminist texts. Created as part of a ‘devotional citation’ praxis, the artworks are interwoven with the writing and the final installation brings together both the finished artworks and a staging of the domestic space in which they were made. Informed by a queer (and) decolonial (and) feminist ethics, the project is rooted in research within Undercommons and Indigenous Studies (Emma Dabiri, Stefano Harney & Fred Moten, Robin Wall Kimmerer), black feminist love-politics (Alexis Pauline Gumbs, jennifer c. nash) and queer theory (ashon t. crawley, Amber Jamilla Musser). 

The thesis is organised around the life cycles of a flowering plant: Seed & Root; Sprout & Leaf; Bloom & Pollinate and Wither & Seed. While Seed & Root attends to the history of British women botanical artists of the 19th and 20th centuries, the links between plant taxonomy and the foundations of scientific racism, and botanic and cottage gardens relationship with the colonial weaponization of Christian ideology, Sprout & Leaf provides a contemporary context for my praxis through exploring the work of British and North American artists and flower growers working with flowers as living plants, painted objects and/or metaphors to speak to queer (and) decolonial (and) feminist liberatory politics, such as Lauren Craig, Benny Nemer, Roisin Taylor and Charmaine Watkiss. Bloom & Pollinate attends to my devotional citation gifting practice, in which the artworks are gifted to the scholars who authored the cited texts, in an act of honouring the importance of ‘unmet friends’ (Carolyn G. Heilbrun) and the sensorial embodied acts of reading and citing (ashon t. crawley, Amber Jamilla Musser). Furthermore, I highlight how the creation of an installation space that imitates my domestic working environment, and brings together paintings, fresh flowers and documentation of the movement of my devotional citation artworks, invites the reader/viewer to engage with a new approach to academic study. Finally, Wither & Seed considers the scope and limitations of the project and plants the seeds for the future growth of the project. 

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