August 14 – October 11, 2021
The scene was ludicrous, a beautiful and exotic plant up for auction with a frenzied audience driving prices to astronomical heights. When the gavel strikes, some lucky fool is on the hook for a winning bid that’s equivalent to half a year’s rent. You may be conjuring images of Holland, circa 1636, a smoke-filled room crowded with elegantly dressed merchants, haggling over tulip bulbs. But that assumption would be wrong. This is a recent online auction, and the participants are sheltered behind the anonymity of a username, locked in a bidding war over a juvenile Philodendron Caramel Marble plant.
Mallory Weston’s most recent series, Nodes, is a glorification of mutations, mistakes, and anomalies in both nature and technology. Weston’s imagery involves the familiar landscapes of a digital world superimposed on the foliage of rare tropical plant specimens. Coincidentally, these lush species also lead a double life as popular houseplants with a cult-like following and appeal. These striking plants make excellent content, with their splotches of pastel pink or polka-dotted patterning or otherworldly solid white leaves. But there’s also the darker and more recent phenomenon: the desire to latch onto any other life form available to tend and care for during isolation. Feeling the thrill of watching a new leaf slowly unfurl or fresh buds appear after a long period of dormancy; something, anything, to look forward to.
Weston’s work has long explored the inherent symbolism of plant and animal imagery. Just like jewelry, plants and flowers are used to seduce, gifted to express love or affection. Flora and fauna are popular subject matter in jewelry through the ages as if there’s a primordial human instinct to personify these organisms, surrogates of the human experience. Plant imagery seems an unlikely counterpart to pit against the design hallmarks of our digital landscape. But with more consideration, the relationship between the disparate themes of natural imagery and human-made technology starts to come into focus. Consider plant propagation: you can grow an entirely new plant from a single leaf cutting, leading to exponential generations of offspring. This growth mimics the spread of information and virality seen in the online ecosystem.
This series is dominated by representations of the Variegated Monstera, a plant with striking asymmetrical patterns of green and white randomized across its broad fenestrated leaves. The beautiful imperfection of these plants has made them highly sought after, the jewel of any houseplant collection. The pure white leaves of the Variegated Monstera cannot photosynthesize and thus perish quickly. What makes these plants so desirable is also their weakness, the more unique a marking, the more ephemeral. Weston has juxtaposed these leaves with the markers of our transient technology: cracked screens and digital mesh. Just as plants die and decay, our technology becomes outdated and obsolete.
Constructed of anodized titanium, Weston’s work echoes the sleek devices that we depend on every day. Titanium anodizing allows her to capture vivid botanical color palettes while simultaneously providing a material link to cutting-edge computing technology. And through this exploration of material, she has begun to incorporate computer-aided design in combination with her previous analog processes. The result is a hybrid process, using digital design tools to create unique hollow forms difficult to achieve otherwise.
Mallory Weston is an artist currently living and working in Philadelphia, PA. Her work involves a marriage between traditional jewelry techniques and textile techniques, and she creates large-scale wearable pieces that allow metal to move with the fluidity of fabric. She received her MFA in Jewelry + Metalsmithing from Rhode Island School of Design, graduating in 2013. Mallory works as an Assistant Professor of Metals/Jewelry/CAD-CAM at Temple University’s Tyler School of Art and Architecture in Philadelphia.
Mallory maintains an active studio practice as a member of the JV Collective, a group of seven art jewelers that are anchored in Philadelphia, but national in scope. She is an engaged participant in the global art jewelry community, regularly collaborating with other makers and artistic platforms. She recently completed artist residencies at Baltimore Jewelry Center and with the Françoise van den Bosch Foundation in Amsterdam. Her work can be found in the permanent collections of the CODA Museum and Design Museum Den Bosch in the Netherlands and the Museum of Fine Arts Houston and the Museum of Arts and Design in the United States.