In the series Strange Plants, Heather Beardsley works across a range of media such as found photography and textiles, embroidery, image transfer, sculpture, and video to create scenes of architecture seemingly reclaimed by wild vegetal overgrowth. These eerie depictions express the sublime power of nature against the manmade, provoking, current dialogues on climate change and the environment.
The varied locations have a personal connection to Beardsley as they chronicle the many places her art practice has taken her from Chicago, Vienna, Kyiv, Budapest, Beijing, Tallinn, and Hampton Roads. Beardsley’s 2017 visit to Pripyat, the ghost town closest to the site of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in present-day Ukraine, instilled a real-life vision for these imagined scenes. With postcards and textiles found in local flea markets across Europe, Beardsley juxtaposes structures with encroaching fauna, using embroidery to challenge the pejorative confines of “decorative art” or “craft.” In a time when cities are growing at an unprecedented rate, nuclear tensions are at a post-Cold War high, and the effects of climate change seem more pronounced every year, Beardsley’s plant “invasions” pose questions instead of providing answers, ultimately showing that even from the brink of environmental disaster nature can fight back, and new life will grow.