Made of translucent glass, Laura Hart’s brilliant orchids appear to be the paragon of delicacy: the fleshy petals and neon-illuminated columns are in full bloom, representing a fleeting stage of life that’s modeled with an easily breakable substance. The Suffolk-based artist, though, is more concerned with the floral family’s historical resilience and aptitude for survival.
There are 28,000 known species of orchids, which 100-million-year-old fossil records prove were the first to bloom. “Representing a quarter of the world’s flowering plants, there are four times as many orchid species as there are mammals and twice as many birds,” Hart says. In her newest series, Orchis Exotica—which debuted earlier this year as part of Collect 2020 with Vessel Gallery—the central neon light is a nod to orchids’ efforts to attract necessary pollinators to ensure their survival. These successful strategies prove their adaptability, Hart says, a move she connects to Charles Darwin’s evolutionary theories.
Manacled by religious dogma of his time, he risked a charge of heresy had he cited another organism equally successful in achieving global population through adaptability. Though there is very little anecdotal record of his personal resolve that humans were the ultimate example of his revelatory theory, there can be no doubt he believed it to be so…The bi-coloured neon centres illuminate the uncanny resemblance between orchid and human reproductive organs; a parallel unlikely missed by the great man himself.
Orchis Exotica is an extension of Hart’s previous flowers that had similarly perfect symmetry but lacked the glowing portions. Despite LED lights being simpler to use, Hart tells Colossal she prefers the traditional mechanisms. “Why neon? Well, I am a lover of the light/art form; very much a rarity in itself these days with the advent of LED neon tube usurping traditional glass,” she writes. Constructed with a combination of 3D design software and traditional technique, each piece is hand fused and slumped to create the half-meter-wide flowers. They undergo multiple firings.
Of course, unlike living orchids, Hart’s sculptures prove their durability by their failure to wilt. Head to Instagram and Facebook to follow her vibrant works, and see which are available for purchase from Vessel Gallery.