Cart Search

2024 Annual Conference

St. Louis

March 21-23, 2024

submit Remember my login

Looking for a chapter event?

Past SPE Annual Conferences

Claire A. Warden

SPE Member since 2011
Member Chapter: Southwest

SALT Portfolio

Despite the best efforts of science, authentic preservation of living matter is an impossible act. It is an ideal that stands in tension with the transient ephemerality that qualifies life. And yet / or perhaps because of it / this tension makes the humble ambitions of the botanical sciences intriguing.

In order to preserve and document specimens for future study, scientists must "fix" the organic complexity of the botanical specimen through human intervention. It is a process that, ultimately, restructures the essence of the specimen. In this way, botanical life can only endure as a specimen in a liminal state, the extended occupation of a pause between natural growth and decomposition. It is in this otherwise invisible moment, one reachable only through the intervention of the preservative act, that I find a deep and uncanny beauty.

I have always gained great satisfaction in creating labor-intensive art, which, in many cases, the process may be equally as important as the resulting product. In the series Salt, I emphasize the manipulation that manifests from preservation through the use of salt. This paradoxical mineral, that is necessary to sustain life""yet, if the delicate balance is outweighed, can extinguish it""reflects the structure of a preserved specimen and acts to preserve it. I submerge each living plant in a bath of salt water and allow the salt to crystallize on and within the living form.

Referencing early photographers and naturalists like Carl Linnaeus, William Henry Fox Talbot and Anna Atkins, I use the subjects and methods of the natural sciences as a vehicle to explore the intersections of knowledge, control and manipulation. Inspired by the intentions of botanical illustrations as a method to understand and control one's environment while maintaining a symbiotic relationship with place and identity, I seek to impress the human urge to order nature and in the process fundamentally change it. Using the platinum-palladium photographic process for its chemical stability and long-lasting image, these direct contact prints complicate the ideal of preservation, albeit, at the expense of the most authentic act of living matter, decay.

Botanical Specimen with Salt (Myrtle)

Botanical Specimen with Salt (Wildflower No. 3)

Botanical Specimen with Salt (Unidentified No. 4)

Botanical Specimen with Salt (Wildflower No. 4)


Botanical Specimen with Salt (California Ivy)

Botanical Specimen with Salt (Wildflower No. 1)

Botanical Specimen with Salt (Branch No. 2)

Botanical Specimen with Salt (Unidentified No. 2)

Email Sign Up

SPE email updates contain resources, news, and more!

About this piece

Comments about this piece

Dialogue and critique are important to the SPE mission.
Please join the conversation.

Exit Full Screen Mode