& the Anthropocene
Photographs commissioned by ONTHEBUS for special Ukraine/USA Edition.
The sunflower suffers no drought of symbolism. Its magnetism towards the sun representing all life’s dependency on it, or perhaps more appropriately, human negligence of it, eventually becomes a signifier of friendship, loyalty, and love. But like many things beautifying Hallmark cards, the true history of the sunflower might be darker. Originating in what is now North America and cultivated by indigenous tribes, the flower was brought to Europe by Spanish Colonialists. While flourishing in Europe (albeit being overlooked for its food-related potential), it finds a particular rise in popularity in Russia when in the 18th Century, the Russian Orthodox Church issues a diktat for the period of Lent which bans the consumption of food made from various oils and fats, omitting the sunflower from its list of banned substances. By the 1970’s, it finds its way back again (in its current hybrid manifestation) to North America.
In this series of still life photographs, I am looking for connection between two edges of the world, Ukraine and United States, and exploring the relationship between the value of life, the individual, and the state. Our contemporary world is a cross-pollination of identity. For many of us, to belong to country is to belong to what lies at the core of our humanity – connection and sense of purpose. Yet, no matter what country we belong to or are fighting against, we can all connect in each other the monotony of life, our pull to the sun, and the terrible beauty of family and death.
As artists, we belong to a state that is greater than our country, greater than our gods, and certainly greater than the drudges of humanity. We belong to a great conversation, obstinate and life-giving. And as the sunflower reaches towards the sun, we must also reach to never let this conversation peter out.