There is something mesmerizing about artwork inspired by nature, in which you will see a string of stories attempting to bring hope amid the pandemic and to provide a moment of clarity when we feel lost or overwhelmed. In our new Get Your Hands Dirty series, Angela Alba shares her leafy love affair between art & plants and how plants influenced her artwork—ideally in a form of self-love, growing in a nice ceramic pot.
Similar to countless workaholic New Yorkers, we craved nature and purchased a pot of plant on impulse, and treated ourselves to nursery visits every spring. However, trying to learn about plants and proper plant care always felt like trying to learn the rules of football. Our brain would reject all the dos and don'ts after about thirty seconds. In the end, it would live in our memory as an indistinguishable green blur. So when we met Angela Alba and her 60 plus (and counting) houseplants in her home in Brooklyn, we were truly enthralled with the seductive visions of exquisite (and expensive) variegated Monstera stretching toward the light.
Angela Alba is a Brooklyn-based artist and creator of the Greenhouse Fatty. She is one of Instagram's budding plantfluencer because of her artistic works influenced by the human body and by her houseplants. Alba shares that there's actually a lot of similarity between the texture of nature and the human body, such as how a fuzzy cactus can inspire her to draw a simple leg with hair. She also mentions that even the pastel colors of a Moonstone Succulent can inspire what color she chooses to paint a sculpture. Certainly, her genius creations can be found flourishing in a nice ceramic pot by the windowsill.
Ahead, Angela Alba shares about her plant journey, her leafy love affair between art & plants, and how her houseplants make all the difference during this pandemic.
OMYSA: I have read your About page, and you make drawings and sculptures. My question might not be related to the folds, hair, and marks of the human body, but do your plants inspire you to create artistic works? If yes, how do they inspire you, and do you have drawings or sculptures you could show to us? We’d love to see it!
ANGELA ALBA: I find that there's actually a lot of similarity between the texture of nature and the human body. At first, I didn't think that plants influenced my artwork, but as I started getting more serious about plant care, the similarities revealed themselves. That's when I started getting more intentional with it.
A fuzzy cactus can inspire me to draw a simple leg with hair, and a bulbous leaf can inspire me to sculpt a form that resembles the flesh of a stomach. Even the pastel colors of a Moonstone Succulent can inspire what color I choose to paint a sculpture. Plants also provide a moment of clarity. If I'm struggling with what direction I want to take a piece that I’m working on, I’ll remove it from my workspace and place it among my plants. The change of scenery helps me to decide my next move.
O: I have noticed that artists are quite obsessed with plants. What's your take on the use of living things, such as plants, as a form of art? For example, a living plant wall.
AA: As an artist, it's exciting to think of plants as the material itself. I think the goal for any artist working with plants as a medium would be not to harm them but instead to work with their natural properties. Plants are strong but so delicate at the same time. Anything from too much moisture in the soil or even the humidity level in the air can be the downfall of a plant, so one would have to take that into account.
When it comes to a living plant wall, you'd then have to decide if it will be self-watering or something that’s meant to be seen for only a day and then deconstructed and hopefully repurposed afterward. I think it's cool that more companies are creating self-watering plant walls and creating options for people to have these living works of art in their homes. It removes all of the guesswork. Because of this accessibility and how popular houseplants are becoming, you don't have to be an artist or commission an artist to have a living work of art in your home or office.
CREDIT: ANGELA ALBA
O: How did your plants help you during this pandemic? Especially last year, we were all required to stay at home. Are they great quarantine buddies?
AA: The plants helped me to remain grounded during the lockdown. With everything going on, the plants still required care, so it helped give a sense of purpose that was unrelated to the pandemic. It provided a much-needed break from everything that was going on. I know that many people took up caring for houseplants as a hobby during quarantine.
I already had quite a large collection before it began, so while many folks were introduced to plants for the first time and found joy in that, I was also able to be reintroduced to my plants in a new way even though I wasn't a first time plant parent. It's like when you re-watch your favorite show. You're always able to find something that you missed the first time around, and it reminds you why you love it so much.
Plants are great quarantine buddies as long as you don't over-parent them. Sometimes a plant needs to be left alone most of the time in order to thrive, and it takes trial and error to develop those kinds of boundaries when you first discover something you love.
O: For a plant owner with more than 60 plants, how do you care for all of them? How does your day start? Do you have a plant care routine or schedule?
AA: I try to keep my plant care very streamlined because it's no longer fun for me when it starts to feel like a chore. In the morning, I'll check in on the plants to see if anyone needs extra care or if anything seems out of the ordinary. Usually, they are fine, and I can go about my day. Once a week, the plants get watered with a mixture of sink water and rainwater. I was lucky this summer because I got to keep the plants outside on my deck, and they have been thriving.
Of course, sometimes things come up that you can't plan for, like pests or human error. So I try my best to keep preventatives on hand for whatever problems may arise-extra gardening tape, systemic granules, mosquito bits, bamboo sticks, wire, soil, terra-cotta saucers, and a lot of extra towels because sometimes watering indoors can make a huge mess.
O: What are your recommended plants to spruce up a space?
AA: This may not be a popular answer, but I absolutely love palm trees. Pony Tail Palms, Lady Palms, Majesty Palms. I love them all! People tend to have trouble with palms because the tips of the leaves get brown very easily and for many different reasons. They also require a lot more water than most people think. The brown tips and frequent waterings really don't bother me, though. They are pet safe and a great distraction for my cat because she loves to play with them, and it keeps her away from the rest of my collection.
Additionally, I love snake plants. They are so easy to care for and versatile. They look great as large, mature plants if you want to keep them on the floor or shelf plants if you purchase them when they are still young.
Check out our Plant Care blog to learn more about different houseplants and tips on how to keep your plants alive and healthy.