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Trish Tillman and Rebecca Morgan

First Image: Trish Tillman, Companions (Anchor, Orange, Green, Pink), (2019).

Second Image: Scott Reeder, Boot (2020) (left); Rebecca Morgan, “Reclaim’d Vase”, 2020 (right).

Photo: Courtesy of Fort Makers

On the ground-floor corner of Manhattan’s Hester and Orchard Streets is a gallery with almost floor to ceiling windows that invite in the eyes of passersby. It’s an exhibition space belonging to Fort Makers Gallery, and as of this week, it will showcase a lush assortment of over 40 plants and vessels, appearing to be a greenhouse in the middle of the Lower East Side.

It’s called The Planter Show, and, per Fort Makers’s co-founder & creative director Nana Spears, the idea was actually conceived long before the possibility of a pandemic, and before the house plant became the city dwellers’s most valuable possession.

“It's been about three years that it's been on our minds,” says Spears, who runs the space with partners Noah Spencer and Naomi Clark. “It’s not the first time we’ve worked with plants but we’ve always had this larger show in mind with tons of plants. Not like a regular gallery show with a minimal amount of work and a certain amount of space between each object. This show will be overflowing with work.”

The “works” are over 40 planters made for the occasion by a variety of artists and designers. Some notable participants include Harry Nuriev, Laura Chautin, and Shino Takeda. As Spears explains, the artists were all given the instructions to craft a planter and, unless they preferred to source their own plant, the greenery was provided from Dahing Plants—a local nursery. The only parameter was that the creations had to fit through the gallery doors. Otherwise, the artists were left to have their imaginations run wild like Mother Nature. 

A selection of the works with artists's statements can be previewed below (perhaps inspiring you to pursue your own updated vessels). The Planter Show runs September 25 through November 19. 

Janie Korn

“As I prepare to tuck into another long winter in confinement, I've been meditating a lot on ways to bring more whimsy into my petite New York apartment. I made Swan Pond with my own joys in mind—bright colors, a little bit of Madonna Inn campiness, the texture of a freshly frosted layer cake; it's some sweet delight to curb the bite of quarantine.”

Trish Tillman

“Companion” pieces are based on 1940’s souvenirs from her childhood home. The sweetly naughty androgynous planters are a nod to her grandfather’s Navy career, and trinkets brought home from shore leave debauchery.

Simone Bodmer-Turner

“I began the piece the same way I begin all my sculptural works—with one bulbous foot—culminating in a piece that feels like dancing arms, wrapped around a cavern that can contain a plant. Beneath the plant is a glossy black interior, which is also undulating and layered, mimicking the exterior of the form.”

Lauren Elder

“Inspired by the Greek vases of the Archaic and Classical Periods, The Singing Rose series playfully depicts mythological and quotidian activities. The planters are engraved and hand-painted, allowing for surreal narratives to emerge in the eye of the viewer.”

Farrah Sit & Joel Seigle

“This sculptural plinth is a gesture to literally put a plant on a pedestal to represent our awe of nature and to acknowledge Nature as possibly the greatest creator of art and beauty. The name Vayu references the Hindu deity of Wind. The classic Vayu Planter is realized in a deep shadowy finish. The twisting geometries of the pedestal features architectural elements that bring the viewer into unexpected voids and surprising intersections.”

Future Retrieval

“The Vulture Planter is our response to 2020, a mix of end times doom and gloom with the optimism of planting and growth, and the urge to beautify one's surroundings. Now felt like the perfect time to work with the Vulture form which symbolizes patience and resourcefulness.”

BNAG

The BLOBS are amorph pots preferably for succulents and cacti. It seems against nature to remove a plant from its natural habitat and transfer it to the indoor space. The BLOBS return the plants to a seemingly organic, hilly miniature landscape, while emphasizing the absurdity of this gesture.

Jessi Li

“Over the past 6 months, I frequented Greenwood Cemetery and considered the symbiotic relationship between plants and bodies. Despite morbid origins, I wanted to make something affirmative, hence the Thumbs-Up Planter.”

Elisabeth Kley

“The images painted on the sides of this planter are taken from Coptic textiles I found on the internet during quarantine. Along with two other planters, this shape was made for the windows of Canada’s new gallery in Tribeca.”

Scott Reeder

“They say you can tell a lot about somebody by their shoes, but I have a few questions; Do you need to see both shoes to make a clear evaluation? What if they aren’t the original shoes but instead ceramic knock-offs? What if the shoe now has a plant growing inside? What if the shoe is a conch shell?”