Botanica (2011) > Writings

Sandra Binion focuses attention along the gradient between two opposing energies: preservation and destruction. A gradient that we could call form. She likes forms, and succeeds in finding them in the very process of dissolution; even in places where nobody bothers to see them.

She gathers organisms in the process of decay. To tell the truth, she holds on to everything humanly possible to hold on to. In her notebooks, next to the expected sketches, we find automatic-teller receipts, train tickets, mineral-water labels and restaurant bills, suddenly displayed in a new light.

She is capable, in a singular way, of halting at the edge of an abyss the memory of the most perishable and transitory of objects - spent money. The least stable of forms, the most convertible, perhaps the most unreal.

Wherever she goes, she finds something, even where no one would notice anything. In her presence things come to life that appeared dead. Hers is a gesture of resuscitation, like summoning Lazarus back from the grave and showing us how much there is yet to see.

When she came to my garden, I was struck by her patience in gathering, in stopping to look at what others would have discarded and considered worthless. When indifference is the norm, with things on the verge of disappearing being left to vanish unobserved, Sandra takes care to notice. For in that very instant before completely disintegrating, something might manifest itself with a certain special beauty, an acute intensity; almost as if, in the moment of rendering their soul to God, they emit, for that instant and that instant only, a quality that remains invisible when the organism, enjoying perfect health, is too thick, too turgid, too opaque. Too material.

Binion refuses to label as garbage what the world considers just that: rotten fruit, wilted flowers, used tickets, things in general that are no longer of use, that no longer have a place in the world.

In Ennesbo, a project centering on her ancestral farm, she tells of the beauty of worn and used up things and of the melancholy of not being able to hold onto them, of the piety in preserving certain traditions, like the turkey roasted in its shroud according to the family recipe, or the cherry tree from which generations of ancestors have gathered fruit, and from which she, too, picks cherries, rediscovering a gentle connection with the land.

Is it nostalgia, in part, or also a reflection on art, be it art inasmuch as it is perfectly useless, or in that it invites the distracted autopilot to pause?

Sandra Binion zooms in, blows up and enlarges the portrayed forms to the point of rendering the invisible palpable. All those drips: just what a beginning watercolorist does everything to avoid, Sandra, instead, seeks them out intentionally; even leaving her works out in the rain, exposing them to the elements and to the erosion of time. Dripping water equals transition, impermanence.

Like the fluctuating world of the garden, a world of continuous transformations.

In traditional botanic painting, a sort of unexpressed censure confined depiction to moments of surging completion - seed, flower, fruit, root, bud, verdant leaf - reserving only a few discreet brush strokes for the memento mori: a fly on a stalk, a tiny snail nibbling a leaf. Sandra Binion pushes herself further, one step from the return to humus.

-Pia Pera 2011

Botanica Essay by Pia Pera (English version)
2011