Award winning artist Frances Vye Wilson's art practice is rooted in a 12-year study of the plant material elements used in the Japanese art form Ikebana, A multidisciplinary study of the use of plant material to achieve an aesthetically balanced work of art and a contemplative state of mind.
Buddhism was introduced to Japan starting in the 6th century. Offering flowers at Buddhist altars became an honor bestowed upon priests. Coming from the word Ikeru “have life,be living” and Hana “flower”. Encompassing this was Wilson's personal study of Buddhism.
More than simply putting flowers in a container, ikebana is a disciplined art form in which nature and humanity are brought together. Often emphasizing other areas of the plant, such as its roots, stems and leaves, Ikebana puts emphasis on shape, line, and form, texture, color and negative space.
These were all lessons that informed Wilson's work and led her to expand her vision of what these lessons might teach using other types of material and form. As an artist, the extraordinary experience of exhibiting Ikebana at the Metropolitan Museum of Art for two years inspired her to explore other materials she might incorporate in these exhibits.
"Having broken my ankle, there was ample time to research material! It was during this time I discovered cambium fiber from the inner layer of bark of the Mulberry tree. Realizing this was a particularly unique and versatile material that had not been used in artwork of this type in the past, a world of possibilities emerged and my experiments began."
Over time, Wilson moved away from the formal elements of Ikebana, to creating sculptural work exclusively. However, she never lost her love of simple branch material and found ways of incorporating natural material into her new work.
Cambium fiber is used in Thailand’s paper making industry and is harvested in rural Laos.
"I receive it in crude bundles of varying sizes. The process I currently use evolved over the last five years of experimentation to determine the possibilities of this unique material. I have developed a hardening agent in which I immerse the material, stretch it and form it around a template where it dries and is removed. This allows me to construct both the realism of the human form and the biomorphic shapes that reflect nature."
"Making art is more of a solitary experience, inwardly directed. You have no one to direct you, no script to follow"
Wilson spent much of her life in the film and t.v. industry as a member of the Screen Actors Guild. "The film industry is a cooperative culture of diverse talents working in unison. Making art is more of a solitary experience, inwardly directed. You have no one to direct you, no script to follow. All the creativity and execution comes from one source, the artist. There is also the business side of art to contend with. Ultimately a career in art reflects your individual skills and beliefs. You are not fulfilling another person's vision, but expressing your own. More difficult to be sure, but more rewarding."
"The business of art is going through a profound metamorphosis. Small independent galleries once able to support, encourage and work directly with the artist are having to compete with large art fairs and redefine themselves as commodity brokers. The emergence of online galleries is indicative of the separation between the artist and the commerce of art. The cooperative culture of developing art for its own sake is eroding and the artist is left in a vacuum, uncertain about the outcome of risk-taking in their work. Instagram has become the new business card as artists attempt to reach a larger audience. It remains to be seen ultimately how effective a tool it is."
Wilson is currently working on a new project that plays with what’s real and believability.
"It takes story-building that marries the concepts of a lost civilization Utopian ideology with museum exhibits and contemporary art. It’s a complex installation - establishing the context in which the “specimens” and “archaeological finds” live. This project incorporates many new multimedia features and involves interactive audience participation."