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Similarity of Being

Similarity of Being
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Plants and paper share the same cells, fiber, and structural vulnerability. When flora are cut and the stocks are placed in water, their imminent decay is slowed. When paper absorbs water, its decay is accelerated. This installation will be watered weekly during the exhibition in order to demonstrate the precarious nature of coexistence, perseverance, and fragility. The sacrifice of one medium to prolong the condition of the other can be witnessed dynamically over the 28 day exhibition.

Watching the Russian invasion of Ukraine unfold on social media and international news outlets increases the sense of the global life connectedness we all have. The relativity of life is made clear when witnessing the destruction of lives, homes, cities, and a society. Codependent ecosystems are essentially societies where the biological perseverance of life is contingent on relationships. The rhythm of life and decay is a fluctuation of being, dynamically related to the acceptance or repression of variety.

Global awareness, including semantically distorted communications, misinformation, debunking, prebunking and strategically rhetorical convolution are products of the information age, where the collapse of physical and cultural distances through mediation creates pre-experiences prior to reality. The question of authenticity is a paradox of faith and doubt inserted before a reaction to an experience takes place, regardless of when or if an actual event takes place.

A physical object that is witnessed in person lacks instantaneous global visibility, but solves physical and temporal distancing, while facilitating subjective freedom. Faith and doubt can be directed to subjective consciousness instead of addressing authenticity. Mortality is empirically real. In this exhibition our team is attempting to highlight the exchange of one medium’s stability for the proliferation of another. The exchange itself can be understood as an act of compassion even when the degeneration of both are imminent.

Multiple layers of meticulously cut paper cover various biomorphic shapes, creating a unworldly landscape. These paper layers were drawn by Eric Standley using the technique he has developed since working in the School of Visual Arts at Virginia Tech. The innovative process of laser cutting paper has itself evolved with the advancement of optics, setting controls, and most recently the cutting size areas of the new CNC laser machines in CID. Utilizing these capabilities to advance the project’s expressive materiality echoes the Amplifying the Arts ICAT research theme by providing a fantasized glimpse into a potential universe where the synthetic is equally welcomed as a form of impermanent variety that is woven into a sustainable ecosystem. The sculptural works within the landscape are also created from layers of laser cut paper, wood and gold leaf, combining technologically advanced fabrication techniques with centuries old studio practices. The layered lace-like surfaces cover plastic containers filed with floral foam and water. Botanical cuttings were selected and arranged by Barbara Leshyn and her team of floral arrangers to occupy the landscape, utilizing ikebana compositional and philosophical techniques. The flora are watered three times during the exhibition of the project. When plants and flora are cut and the stocks are placed in water, their imminent decay is slowed. When paper absorbs water for long periods of time, its decay is accelerated. The similarity of being between the two mediums in this project is a pseudo-organic index that accentuates global life connectedness.

In our initial collaborative process meetings we respond to our art/research practices as a presence of being, identifying the shared vulnerability of plants and paper. Taking that a step further, the cycle of regeneration in all life forms express markers of physical, temporal, and ephemeral patterns that are familiar – maybe intrinsically so to human consciousness. The similarity of plants and paper as temporal and impermanent materials became the central concept of the project, and how water prolongs the existence of one, and limits the other. Having a conceptual compass consisting of fragility, mortality and compassion, we critically conjured a metaphor for humanity, and inadvertently the war in Ukraine. During these conversations Barbara reviled that she was a third generation Ukrainian flower arranger.


  • School of Visual Arts
  • School of Plant and Environmental Sciences


  • Eric Standley, Institute for Creativity, Arts, and Technology, School of Plant and Environmental Sciences, Studio Art
  • Barbara Leshyn, Institute for Creativity, Arts, and Technology, School of Plant and Environmental Sciences