Materia Medica is an exhibition that considers the relationships between healing, nature, place, memory and sense-of-self as related to the Atlanta-based artist Cynthia Farnell’s recent experience as a breast cancer patient.
The centerpiece of the installation is an open vernacular architectural form containing heirloom plants. The collaborative piece, created with Rhode Island artist Frank Poor, is based on a Victorian Wardian Case, which is a wood and glass peaked-roof container that was used to transport tender plants on long ocean voyages during the expansion of the British Empire. Poor’s structure loosely contains Farnell’s bulb-forming plants called crinum lilies. The plants were passed on to the artist from her father, a pathologist, pharmacologist and gardener, who is now living with Alzheimer’s disease.
Other installation imagery is derived from the calendula and yew plants, extractions of which are used to soothe skin irritations that are part of radiation therapy and to suppress estrogen receptors in the cells of breast cancer patients.