I am so in love with Taylor McKimen’s plant pieces. To me, the amount of genius here is just staggering. At Plant Propaganda, we have seen plants tortured, smashed into a million pieces and turned into high art. All of which are, of course, fabulous things to do with plants. But what hits so close to home about McKimen’s work is the honesty. Having hung around plenty of skilled gardeners, I know there are those who share my passion for a well-tended plant. But, having also managed a hydroponics shop in a college town, I am also familiar with the sort of carnage wreaked on plants that exist in the public space and not in the confines of a private yard – chewing gum stuck to cactus spines, broken beer bottles and wadded up tissues stuffed in pots, used Band-aids hidden among the foliage.
These are the plants in McKimens’ world. Growing up in a small California town on the border of Mexico, his work his influenced by his experience of the Southwest. These are the sorts of plants you find in run-down, often impoverished parts of cities throughout America: plants forgotten, sitting sadly on the porch amongst discarded liquor bottles, hung with old socks, covered in cobwebs and planted in all manner of dollar-store pot or soup can. Christmas cacti and geraniums purchased at Home Depot that have been neglected for years, now sharing space with beer cans and candy wrappers.
There are more than just a few of these patio vignettes up and down our street, making me feel a down-to-earth-ness and connection with McKimen’s pieces. And when his plants are elsewhere, they don’t fare much better: indoors, they are forgotten relics sitting atop ancient CRT televisions. In their natural habitat, they struggle up through and grow over the wreckage of a defunct pickup truck. Despite it all, though, the pieces are not depressing. They are just real. Illustrated in the bright colors and cartoony curves of the graffiti McKimens’ grew up around, and with blunt, tongue-in-cheek titles like Cactus Tangle, Tackle Cactus and Ashtray Succulent, there is still delight to be found here.
Photos and art © Taylor McKimens
For more psychedelic Southwestern art, check out his portfolio.