LA Botanical

LA Botanical
Joyce Campbell
Foreword by Dr Susan Ballard, essay by Tessa Laird

LA Botanical is a series of ambrotype photographs of plant specimens found in the greater Los Angeles area. It was conceived by the multidisciplinary artist Joyce Campbell in the wake of Hurricane Katrina which devastated the Gulf Coast of Louisiana in 2005. The aftermath, particularly the inability and unwillingness of the Federal Government to respond to the crisis in flooded New Orleans, highlighted the vulnerabilty of a populace stranded in the face of natural, and human induced calamity in the world’s most powerful nation. As a mother raising her young child in a sprawling American city Campbell was compelled to ask: when the supply chain is disrupted and the supermarkets are empty, and there is no sign of aid reaching you, how can ‘art’ be useful? 

Campbell was raised on pastureland dotted with remnants of native bush inland from Wairoa township, on Aotearoa New Zealand’s rural East Coast. Her family were farmers, botanists and gardeners. Upon migrating to Los Angeles in 1999, she observed a fundamentally alien relationship between the city and its vegetation. Plants that had been introduced by waves of immigrants for food, fuel or medicine had gradually run wild across the city scape, the knowledge of their utility lost to time and neglect induced by a form of industrialized capitalism that was both aggressive and immersive. This book sets out to reveal the breadth of attributes ascribed to the weeds of Los Angeles via the enchantment of its seductive contents: plants rendered ethereal by the wet-plate photographic process that emerged simultaneous with the city itself.

Tessa Laird, in her essay within this volume, calls this book “. . . a poisoner’s handbook, a herbalist’s cure-all, a shaman’s bundle, a gardener’s guide, a botanist’s field manual, an artist’s scrapbook.” It can be all these things. This book is multidisciplinary in its scope, but it exists primarily as an artwork.

The first-edition was published in 2007, to accompany the exhibition LA Botanical at G727 – a Los Angeles gallery dedicated to generating dialogue via artistic representations and interpretations of the urban landscape.

This 2022 second-edition reissue by Rim Books, published on the occasion of the exhibition at Two Rooms gallery in Aotearoa New Zealand and featuring two extra plates, is now reproduced in duotone with a foreword by Dr. Susan Ballard, and a new cover, hand-printed on a vintage Asbern letter-press by the artist in twenty distinct botanical iterations. 

Hand printed card-cover, perfect bound | 90 pages (duotone offset)
ISBN 978-1-99-116521-3
Publication: 15 December 2022

RRP $60

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Please choose the desired cover and name the plant in the notes in your order. (All variations of the images names of plants will be posted on this page after 15th of December)

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