Art meets craft in Vicki Rawlins’ innovative creations.
Rawlins’ creations are largely from foliage she has foraged and assembled.
She’s aided only with scissors and tweezers.
No paint brush. No paint. No glue.
In the “Silent Night,” an idyllic forest scene, Rawlins made the snow from gathered baby’s breath and carnation petals. A casita in the woods of the image comes from cedar foliage, branches and fall leaves from her yard.
And for “Suprema Frida,” the blouse of famous 20th century Mexican artist Frida Kahlo, is from dried ranunculus. Frida’s earrings, in the shape of a hand that Pablo Picasso gave her, are made from eucalyptus bark.
These are featured in Rawlins’ recent book “The Power of Flowers: Turning Pieces of Mother Nature Into Transformative Works of Art.”
Rawlins writes that “Suprema Frida” began with a neighbor’s rubber tree, about seven years ago or so. “The plant was hanging over the neighbor’s driveway fence – fair game, and I only needed two leaves. What caught my eye was that the leaves were turning a beautiful pink color. I thought they’d make a perfect satin jacket for Frida. These leaves and two absolutely gorgeous peonies were a beautiful start,” Rawlins writes.
Frida is the most prominent portrait subject in the book. She has her own section – “Foraging for Frida” – with 12 images. They show Frida winking, Frida blowing a big bubble of bubble gum, Frida wearing a Day of the Dead mask and Frida smoking a cigarette. The cigarette is a dusty miller stem with a German statice at the tip to look like the cigarette is lit.
“She was an inspiration for me, but at the same time there is so much life in her look. With the jewelry, the hair, the outfits. She was always reinventing herself. I couldn’t stop creating her,” Rawlins said in a phone interview from Door County, Wisconsin.
Other portraits in the book include those of Vincent van Gogh, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, John Lennon and Diana Ross. Rawlins has also made art inspired by the holidays (Christmas, Halloween) and contemplative art (love, inner strength) .
Rawlins spends the warm months of the year in Wisconsin and the balance of the year in La Jolla, California. She forages and creates art in both locations.
In the book’s introduction, she writes that she usually starts a piece with a walk down the street or around her yard, really any place that inspires her. Her amblings are therapeutic.
“I’m just attracted to anything that looks interesting, especially dried seeds or pods, colorful foliage and unusual leaf shapes,” Rawlins writes.
She recalls having found attractive brown leaves in a CVS parking lot “of all places.” The leaves now form the windblown hair of a young woman in the piece “Wild Heart.”
Rawlins’ interest in art began long before she began creating foliage art about eight years ago. She studied fine art in school, finding a love of drawing and painting. She later worked in graphic design and freelance illustration.
As a young adult, she lived in downtown Chicago, where she combined painting and sewing into making usable art – such as handmade pillows and clothing she sold at boutiques. That led to her working with polymer clay; she molded and sculpted flowers, insects, little faces and pieces of tiny furniture. Some years later, she returned to painting, but this time doing murals for walls and ceilings for interior designers.
After about a decade, her health began to decline. She experienced neuropathy, muscle and joint pain, difficulty walking, burning skin and vision impairment. She was eventually diagnosed with antibiotic poisoning.
Having fresh flowers at home helped in her recovery. One time she let them wilt and pushed the dead arrangement around. Soon she began to form a face with rose petal lips. “Suddenly, there was a spark, a light, that just filled me up as I was arranging those petals and stems,” Rawlins writes.
Her foliage art grew out of what she termed self-prescribed therapy.
Rawlins uses scissors to cut the foliage to size and tweezers to set the foliage in place without disturbing other elements of the work.
After photographing and documenting each finished piece, she takes its foliage outside, recycling it “back into the earth for a new life.”
If succulents appear in a work, Rawlins often repropagates them.
Rawlins makes prints of the photographed art pieces. The prints are sold online at sistergolden.com.