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Reforestation of the Imagination
Field Guide to the NEW Wildflowers of the Mind
This 56-page booklet features holographic images that can be activated through your phone’s camera and is organized by the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum. Generous support has been provided by: The Smithsonian American Women’s History Initiative, Elizabeth and James Eisenstein, Ed and Kathy Fries Shelby and Frederick Gans James Renwick Alliance Colleen and John Kotelly Betty and Whitney MacMillan Jacqueline B. Mars Kim and Jon Shirley Foundation Myra and Harold Weiss.
Reforestation of the Imagination invites us into a futuristic landscape of peril and promise. Combining handblown glass sculptures with augmented reality (AR), artist Ginny Ruffner blends art and technology, curiosity and wonder, and takes us on a journey of “what ifs”: What if the landscape is devastated? What can nature do to heal itself ? What roles do creativity and science play in our ability to confront an altered landscape? Illustrated and written by Ginny Ruffner, in collaboration with new media artist Grant Kirkpatrick, Reforestation of the Imagination is an interactive “field guide” to the wildflowers of the mind. Ruffner offers tongue-in-cheek descriptions of her fanciful flowers and their remarkable, sometimes humorous adaptations; her clever titles imitate the scientific names of traditional botany while playfully connecting them to the art world: tulips develop stem flexibility, and in a Noah’s ark moment, a plant evolves boat-shaped blooms that carry seeds safely to solid earth for propagation. Her glorious fruits and flowers fuse her musings on art and science; with the inexhaustible resource of her imagination, Ruffner brings color and optimism to a new environment, and to life itself. The artist’s drawings complement images of her glass sculptures, which “sprout” her creations: embedded in each tree-ring image is a QR code that you can scan with your phone’s camera to see Ruffner’s blooms spring to life. In this interactive book, as in her imagined landscape, the artist asks us to join her in creating a world of possibilities and meaning.
Reforestation of the Imagination combines traditional instructions for downloading the app sculpture with augmented reality (AR). By using technology to overlay digital information onto sculptural objects, two disparate environments are portrayed. The setting is an apocalyptic landscape far in the future. The initial environment consists of five landmasses, which support the glass stumps. Except for the painted shelf mushrooms and tree rings on the stumps and logs, the scene is colorless. The landmasses surround a sixth rocky outcropping that features a large fiberglass stump. The central stump sprouts beautifully grotesque bronze, then glass appendages. This improbable growth has survived the devastation to create a new botany. Other than the central stump, the landscape appears at first glance to be barren. Yet, upon viewing the tree rings aided by AR technology, a second environment is revealed. Plants appear (both fruit and flowers), which have evolved from existing flora. They have developed dramatic appendages and the skills necessary to adapt and flourish in this radically different environment. From accessing nutrients in ways that symbiotically improve their surrounding conditions, to cultivating protections from new threats, these adaptations are unexpected, beautiful, and optimistic. This is nature reimagining itself. The imagination cannot be exterminated. It just re-creates itself.