We Are What We Cultivate | An Essay about Charlie Watts’ Hortophilia by Alberto Roman

installation view of Horotphilia by Charlie Watts | image credit Charlie Watts

We are what we cultivate.

At first, I thought about introducing the practice of “wilding” to explore together with you Charlie Watts’ Hortophilia. 

One of the definitions of the practices of wilding is reintroducing endangered species back to habitats so as to reforest and repopulate what once were ruined or decimated ecological zones.

I was going to suggest that what we see in her amazing photographs are a reintroduction of human species back into an unavoidable reconnect with the Earth. That the lush greens we see in her sensitive visual palette are, as we are, unequivocally part of larger Wild filled with interdependence, fecundity, and mystery.

We need such a vision in order to sustain all that lives with us in this 21st century.

While I do maintain that a feature of her work serves to re-enchant us into the rich materiality of our bodies and of the earth itself away from the fascination of our technologies that while shiny and replete with algorithmic velocities that are like cyber fairies in their own right, the technologies themselves depend on minerals and multiple Logics embedded in the depths of the Planet as well.

Her work offers more than that.

I could have opened up with the obvious celebration of the female figure in art but these women can evoke the post glow of the Bacchantes after an evening’s feast. They are part of a canon of images, Rubenesque, perhaps, but as we see them under the immediacy of a beautiful that, say, an initiatory experience with forest concoctions can bring about (for them? for us?), the framing of the images turn rich with revelations that complicate what the feminine can mean for our time: Regality, tenderness, intelligence, danger, eroticisms, vulnerability, diversity, uniqueness, deep sentience.

A couple of more things come to mind as I meditate on Watts’ art. The scale of the photographs remind me of tableaux vivants. We are being delivered to a contemporary mythology of the Feminine. Yes, there are Romantic sensibilities but I see them more as an homage and less a return to a specific aesthetic world view. I know this will be contestable. For me, there is nothing Romantic about the Anthropocene or the Capitalocene and the lens by which Watt’s discloses feminine figures point to a celebration of our belonging to this Earth which entails grief as well. 

How the feminine figure continues to be a vehicle for self-understanding and practice!

Put Watts’ visuals in your imaginal altar.

“What does life want? Life wants more life.” Charlie Watts’ photographs disclose a prism of Contemporary Nature mysticism and Feminist critique.

I feel enriched by it.

– Alberto Roman

installation view of Horotphilia by Charlie Watts | image credit Charlie Watts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *