Samantha Cushman

Invasive & Native Flora:
A Creative Exploration
May 1-5, 2023
Anderson Gallery

In partial fulfillment of the requirement for the Degree of Master of Arts in Teaching in Visual Arts
Samantha Cushman

Native and Invasive Flora is an art installation inspired by my concern regarding invasive plants and their impact on native flora found in Massachusetts. Native plants included are Goldenseal, Purple Milkweed, Showy Lady’s Slipper, and Braun’s Holly-Fern, which are considered endangered in Massachusetts. Other common species such as Red Columbine, Anemone, and Carolina Rose are also showcased. The installation includes drawings of flora, imagery of plant life in animations, and images of invasive species printed on large-format paper scrolls. Much of the imagery included is of the invasive plant, Japanese Knotweed, which is prolifically invasive in our local ecosystems. My aim is to express the destructive impact invasive species have on the native plant life. The project will allow the viewers to have an immersive experience as they look at the drawings, watch the animations and walk through the forest of 12’ tall paper scroll installation.

My interest and connection to the natural environment has led me to practice gardening as a new lifestyle. This has renewed an admiration for my family heritage of farming. In 2020 I sowed in my first garden; it included a few vegetables like tomatoes and summer squash. This has evolved into a garden that feeds my household for months. For the first time, I am growing all my own plant-based food, as an act of independence. Everything in my gardening practice brings me a sense of peace. From planting seeds and watching them sprout to weeding my garden, it all feels like a meditative practice. However, just like all life experiences, this comes with frustrations. There are pests to deal with, the need for continuous watering, fertilizing, and weeding. Unfortunately, my garden currently has an invasion of wild onion, and the Japanese Knotweed is trying to choke out my small brook. The Mile-a-Minute vine is constantly trying to ensnare and annihilate the trees in the neighboring woods. My new awareness of nature in all its capacities has become an all-consuming preoccupation.

Further reading: Native and Invasive Flora: A Creative Exploration