The work of artist Brandy Kraft presents us with a meditation on reality and fantasy in art and nature
Hybrid Flower, Brandy Kraft
The wondrous work of Brandy Kraft, featured in our May issue, is an ode to nature preservation and diversity. Based in Stockholm, the artist painstakingly creates flower hybrids and by photographing or painting them, she gives life to a meditation on beauty, mortality and the relationship between fake and real in art. We chatted with the artist on her inspirations, her background and her future projects. Here's our Q&A.
Can you tell me a little about your background?
I grew up in south Florida. My mom and grandmother were also artists. In our garden there were all kinds of palm trees and tropical flowers. So the realm in which I find myself working now feels very comfortable and natural; like home.
Why did you decide to work in Stockholm?
I have always been drawn to Europe and I think what drew me specifically to Sweden was the nature and the fact that the famous botanist Carl von Linné is from here. He is the scientist that developed the naming system for plants which we still use today. I take inspiration from his curiosity and ingenuity and think of him each time I name a new species of flower.
How did you develop your seriesHybrid Flower?
The concept has developed slowly over the past few years. I like to think of it as an entity, growing on its own, sort of like a plant and that I am just the conduit to help it come to fruition. A huge underlying influence on my art is my concern for the environment. I remember watching the film, Waterworld when I was seven or eight and being completely traumatized. I have been aware of the sensitivity of our world and the nature it’s comprised of for as long as I can remember. That awareness and anxiety has only grown over time. This series is my way to give the viewer a different way to look at flowers. Flowers are so beautiful naturally, on their own but still so unfortunately overlooked and taken for granted. I want to make people look twice.
Why did you decide to paint it in the style of Dutch Still Life? What are other underlying influences in your work?
As a flower painter there is no greater height in art history than the age of the Dutch floral still life. Van Huysum and Rachel Ruysch are my gods. Other influences would be old botanical illustration books and engraving plates; those are absolute treasures. Botanical illustrators, Maria Sybilla Merian, Elizabeth Blackwell and Marianne North are huge inspirations.
What kind of thought-process and emotions do you hope to elicit in the viewer?
I hope to elicit a spark of curiosity, wonder and celebration. I want to offer an opportunity to consider flowers beyond average notions. I was listening to a podcast once and it was a scientist talking about plant and animal life and I can’t remember exact words but his sentiment was basically this: Each species you see is a miracle. Each one has adapted over millions of years and found a way, again and again, to survive and to be alive today. - And I just love that! Everything in nature is a miracle! And it should be celebrated not only for its beauty or practical usage but for its resiliency! :-)
What is the relationship between artificial, fake and real in your work?
I love this question! I began this series just as Trump became President and words like “fake news” started to infiltrate everyday conversation. I think in some way I took that in subconsciously and felt empowered to make my own “fake” flowers. It wasn’t a conscious decision to make “fake” flowers to fool anyone, it was very organic development at the time. But now it’s fun to look back at the parallel and see that the political atmosphere must have influenced my work.
What do you look for in an image?
I look for a lot of different things when photographing the flowers. I look at textures, composition and of course, light and color. In the “right” photo, all of these boxes are checked off but something extra has to stand out. Sometimes this can be the silhouette of a petal or the hue of reflected light within a shadow. And sometimes is just something magical which I can’t explain.
Current and future projects?
Currently I’m showing at the Botanical Gardens of Gothenburg which runs until September 27th. For the future I am working on a book about the process of creating different hybrid flowers at different botanical gardens throughout Sweden. Each botanical garden has a unique selection of curated plant specimens. At each garden, I create a new flower from their specimens and then I name it after that city. Hopefully, once we can all travel safely again, I will extend to creating hybrid flowers at beautiful botanical gardens across Europe. I would also love to do a fashion collaboration one day with Erdem, Richard Quinn or even Gucci. Hey, a girl can dream, right? :-)