Monday, April 25, 2016

Ryan Parra

Ryan Parra is a photography based artist with a primary focus on edible, medicinal, and psychoactive plants growing in the Tempe/Phoenix valley. He earned his BFA from the University of Oregon in 2012, and MFA at Arizona State University in 2016.

Artist Statement: Vivarium

As pharmacology continues to advance, I believe it is important to have a sophisticated understanding of the plants from where it derived and knowledge of their traditional uses. My work is influenced by the rich history and current practices of ethno-botany (such as traditional shamanic practices), the history of still life paintings and plant illustrations, the exploration of plants as a system of knowledge, and the organization of agriculture for the purpose of sustaining the masses.

Urban areas continue to thrive and expand at a rapid rate, resulting in negative effects in biodiversity throughout the lands around them. As scientists are seeing a decline in biodiversity in wilderness areas, they are often finding the opposite trend in highly populated urban areas. This rise and fall of biodiversity is one of many reasons for my interest in still lifes of edible, medicinal, and psychoactive plants growing in the Tempe/Phoenix valley, as well as my focus on plants out in their natural environment. With this in mind, I hope to shed light on the rich variety and the importance of plants growing near and far from our homes. By incorporating styles from still life paintings throughout art history while also including descriptions of each plant's traditional uses, I want to remind viewers of the role plants have played in the exploration of knowledge and well being for thousands of years.

The title, Vivarium, reflects this interest in our unique relationship with nature, and sets the theme of curiosity, containment, and control. Vivarium, meaning place of life, is an enclosed space with plants or animals for observation or research purposes. For me, this act of concealing fragments of nature expresses a sense of power one has over something, much like science with nature, while also expressing great affection and love towards that same thing. It is in this binary friction that fundamental characteristics at the root of our own nature are revealed, as are issues evident in the modern perspective of the natural world.

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