The new Kooyumjian Gallery exhibit isn’t like anything they’ve ever had before, according to Gallery coordinator Kristina Richards. The gallery includes no photographs that include people but instead a collection of edible plants from Arizonan artist Jimmy Fike.
The new exhibit opened on Mar. 3 and features a small selection of Fike’s expansive work, cumulated from over a decade. Fike edited the photos to isolate the plants and their distinct, edible components, aiding his cause to educate others on the importance of these specimens.
Fike’s cause stems from an apparent misstep in the fight to raise awareness about climate change, pollution and extinction.
“There’s this massive body of work that is the romantic tradition of aestheticizing nature,” Fike said. “I love a lot of that work … but also it seemed like it wasn’t getting the job done.”
While Fike’s work takes both a different approach to addressing environmental issues and photographing landscapes, it’s still visually captivating. The images are in black and white, and multiple photos of the same plant are layered together to combine all the elements necessary to identify what is edible. The edible portions of the plant remain in color, emphasizing the beauty found in nature.
The photos are just the first step in educating people on the types of edible plants throughout the nation. Locating these plants and communicating their benefits are another step in Fike’s goal, but finding them can be a daunting task for those without experience.
“I didn’t know anything about plants until I started this series. I bought some used guidebooks. Each book has its own kind of system. It’s not hard, it just takes patience and some careful observation … just get out there and do it.” Fike said.
Fike’s book, “Edible Plants: A Photographic Survey of the Wild Edible Botanicals of North America,” is another tool to help people in their journey of learning about edible plants.
The work of Jimmy Fike illuminates the existence of the largely disregarded and forgotten ecosystem of edible plants, aiding in the fight to protect the environment.