WHEN, 1983

Rosemary Mayer, WHEN, 1983; Watercolor, colored pencil, and pencil on paper; 79.1 × 59.1 cm; 88.5 × 69 × 3.5 cm (framed)

This watercolour painting is part of the artist’s larger research into documenting and researching the forms and cultural significance of various flowers. Like Mayer’s fragile fabric sculptures dedicated to historical women and her temporary balloon monuments, flowers were deeply connected to her interest in the ephemeral and the passage of time, linked to the transience of life but also its cyclical resurgence and return. For Mayer, flowers and their cataloging also had a deep connection to language and history – she studied their names, etymologies and presence in classical mythology and art history while also allowing them to become a vehicle for exploring her own history and biography. The flowers in her work thus become rich metaphors, with several (sometimes unexpected) connotations. Full of association for the viewers as well, her depictions of flowers can offer beauty and comfort but are also a tool for unveiling and expanding our understanding of this American artist, a pioneer of the 1970s feminist movement.

WHEN is a work particularly connected to the passage of time, with the title included in the delicate flower composition as if it were anticipating coming change.

Photo by Marjorie Brunet Plaza