Darting past, a bold dragonfly searches for a safe resting place in the sun. Wings painted in patches of black, its stout body is emblazoned with a shock of white which seems out of place among so much green. At dusk he will stalk the skies darting, diving and rolling like a fearless stunt pilot. But for now he alights on the snap pea trellis, to await the coming dark.
The creamy white pea flowers have been blooming for some time now and the bees have found their nectar alluring. A tiny metallic green sweat bee is busy at her task. Entering each bud, delving deep until out of site, she emerges dusted in yellow sunshine. The heat of the day fuels her vital work and the fruit it will produce. One pea bloom she avoids however, danger lurks inside. She will leave that bud for more foolish beasts.
Inside the fleshy cavern of one such flower a crablike spider awaits. She is as white as the bloom itself rendering her nearly invisible save the pink lightning bolts flanking her bulbous abdomen. She is patient. She can feel the tremors within the plant, the buzzing of larger, wiser pray and the ill-fated landing of a tiny black fly. Like the symbols on her sides, she strikes. The fly will not leave its flower grave.
Within this micro ecosystem, many players play their parts. Each as important as the next, yet we humans deride the beasts who bite and sting, who creep and crawl, who squish and wiggle. However, these creatures are a part of nature’s machine that allow for the produce we eat and the flowers we adore. In this series of intimate reduction woodcut portraits, printmaker, Emily Gray Koehler explores the beneficial insects and arachnids observed in her gardens. While all garden beasts serve some function in the garden landscape, she focuses specifically on the creatures who aid in the development of a healthy and productive garden with the humble understanding that the primary driver of such spaces are the humans, the gardeners who cultivate them. However, where most gardeners come to appreciate if not love their pollinating helpers and eight-legged pest controllers, much of the rest of humanity sees such beasts as scary, disgusting or creepy. This body of work seeks to destigmatize the garden beasts we rely on in an effort to expand humanity’s understanding of the spaces we have designed within the modern world we have created for ourselves. Only through this knowledge can we learn to better create, cultivate, design and manipulate our environment toward sustainability as opposed to self-directed annihilation.
Emily Gray Koehler, 2017