"the narcotic breath of beauty and bane" - Linda Marie Van Tassell
Datura goes by many names: thornapple, jimsonweed moonflower, devil's trumpet, hells bells
Lamb thinks of her flower paintings as portraits. "I often print my images very large to allow the viewer to delve into the 'soul' of the flower." Here she creates an image rich in chiaroscuro; the purple bloom has, as if by magic, soaked up all the available light. The bundled strands of the neck erupt into a flamboyant flurry or ruffles, like old-fashioned crinolines. Purple Datura, typically of Lamb's work, examines the distinctive forms and colors of plants, "the amazing engineering that goes into plants." Inspired to train as a molecular biologist by her fascination with biodiversity, Lamb only began to study photography after her children had grown up.
Lamb grows most of the plants she photographs in her home garden in Bethesda, Maryland. She relishes the opportunity it gives her to observe the life cycles of plants and to choose the perfect photographic moment. "I like the fact that there's a lot of nature that's not under my control, that in order to do what I do, I have to conform to the plant."
As an artist-scientist, Lamb is heir to a tradition that stretches back to Maria Sibiyla Merian (1647-1717) who was an early, significant contributor to entomology as well as a scientific illustrator through the Canadian Mary Vaux Walcott (1860-1940) who meet her geologist husband in 1913 while she was hiking the Canadian Rockies in search of flowers to paint.
Image: Amy Lamb - Purple Datura, 2015, digital print of a photograph, National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington, DC.