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California Poppy

Museum Link:

Source Link:

Date Minted:  February 10, 2021 

Artist Description:  Transparent California Poppy Serie: 3840 x 2160 pixels

CohentheWriter’s Commentary:

“Welcome to the Afterlife.” That’s how artist Luna Ikuta greets us on their SuperRare page, a haunting collection of ethereal works: flowers of all kinds, but stripped of their colors and their solidity, presented to us instead as sheer curtains, their cell walls just nearly visible, and watch how they sway in the dead world’s breeze…

What a consistent exploration of form. All of Ikuta’s SuperRare output is dedicated to the singular exploration of the floral body: the way various flowers grow, and the texture of their skin, and the specific manner of their movement, and how, from so close, and stripped of their color in favor of a ghostly pallor, they begin to form associations with other objects. Here, for example, in California Poppy, the artificially whitened Poppy, almost entirely transparent, shows similarities in some spots to balloons (or perhaps, more accurately, those plastic bags filled with air that accompany all our Amazon packages) while in other spots appears to culminate in shining spheres like pearl earrings. With this unique compositional strategy, Ikuta teases the associative out of otherwise definitive objects, and we are able to learn so much more about the artistic qualities of the natural world because their most obvious features —color and distance— are removed. From this close, with nothing in the way, entire worlds open up on the surface of flower petals. Ikuta literally shows us the tiny worlds within our own. But are we supposed to see such things?

The world of California Poppy is presented so tenderly, and so gently, it may well be the work of some God in the process of admiring their as-of-yet-incomplete creations. And indeed, we’ll never know if we’re seeing the Poppy (or any other of Ikuta’s flowers) on their way towards completion or with completion stripped away retroactively. I suppose it doesn’t much matter; the Poppy sways softly regardless of where it is in its evolution. As mentioned before, Ikuta strips the actual Poppy flower of its color, zooms in extremely close to the skin of its petals, and imbues them with a translucence. The petals seem almost to be made of glass, or of thin plastic, some gossamer substance so thin and so close that we can feel its fragility. Thinner than the thinnest paper, this piece provokes just the slightest bit of anxiety; even the tiny, intimated breeze threatens to slice the delicate petal in two, or puncture the thin bubbles of air caught at its edges. And it’s no wonder the artist welcomes us to the afterlife in their bio: These are like the ghosts of recognizable subjects, the blank specters of familiar forms, hanging around at the edge of your peripheral vision, recognizable by their outline but devoid of substance. Still, by imbuing the Poppy with movement, Ikuta doesn’t shy away from life-related traits altogether. This is not a dead Poppy we’re seeing, after all, it’s the kind of flower we’d see in our own, human afterlife. It’s the death of a nonhuman subject seen through a distinctly human lens. 

Again, this is the human concept of death brought to a class of organism that has no otherwise association with that class. Death for flowers leads to no afterlife. It leads to withering, shriveling, drying, wilting, decaying. Only humans have souls which live on. Only humans breed those iridescent spirits, and only humans spend their post-life days trudging again and again up familiar staircases, flashing into and out of existence, tied to the places which meant much to us. 

Ironic, that only in the Poppy’s deceased state do we come to understand its intricacies. Only when it has been made fully unreal does it open up to us, revealing itself. That’s the powerful presence of the artist here, providing the presence of the thing via the absence of its most essential qualities, teasing form and shape out of something that has been stripped of its color. 

One almost gets the sense that we are voyeurs in the flower’s world. We’re seeing something we shouldn’t be seeing: It’s too vulnerable, too delicate, too exposed. It is like seeing a high-powered business person stripped of their clothes, standing in their skivvies in front of a full-length mirror, holding their elbows, searching for imperfections on their forehead, the kind of flawed, vapid humanity we hide beneath dress and ego and status. Here, the Poppy has nowhere to hide. It flits back and forth across the frame as if confident it can’t be seen; the haunting waltz of that which dances like nobody is watching. We’re not meant to be this close. We’re not meant to see this much. I’ve seen pictures of Tardigrades and felt the same thing; this being is meant to remain unknown to us. But Ikuta has stripped the Poppy bare, revealed the Poppy, and guided us to a peephole in which to watch it. What does it reveal to you, with nobody else around? What of its spirit do you see materialized now that there’s no skin, so to speak, in the way?

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