Spring flowers are already in full bloom in Ann Wood’s studio.
Then again, they always are. The Minneapolis artist has generated an international following for her incredibly lifelike re-creations of flowers, fruits and insects (“nature’s jewelry,” as she calls the bugs). She dissects real plants and then meticulously remakes them out of wood, wire and handmade paper, painstakingly reconstituting every detail. “It’s not just about making the flowers,” she says. “I’m not a florist. I like the buds, the dried-out parts of the plant, the eaten parts of the leaves” where bugs have been. “I love making the root systems.”
These are not fake plants intended to be stuck in the corner of a diner. They are pieces of art meant to be displayed in a museum. Which, in fact, is where many of them are. Through Aug. 19, a “botanical wall” consisting of 150 of her pieces is on exhibit at the Kunstmuseum in The Hague, Netherlands.
Flowers are something people all over the world can relate to, Wood says. “This is less about me and more about connectivity.” In fact, it was the museum that came to her, not the other way around.
“I glanced at my phone, and it said the Netherlands [on the caller ID],” she recalls. “I’m thinking: I don’t know anyone in the Netherlands. But then there’s this lady on the phone who seems to know all about me.”
The caller, a curator at the museum, did know all about her. That’s because Wood posts information about everything she does on her studio’s website (woodlucker.com) and Instagram account (@Woodlucker/paper art), including pictures of her completed work and time-lapse photo galleries documenting their creation. She has more than 129,000 Instagram followers, including, it turns out, the curator.
Depending on the complexity, it takes from three days to two weeks for Wood to make one flower. They are so delicate that to be shipped overseas, each one was placed on a pillow inside its own pressure-filled box, and the boxes were then loaded into a 400-pound crate. “Fortunately, the art shipper takes care of all of that,” she says. And the museum pays for it.
Wood, 59, started making flowers four years ago, motivated by the last conversations she had with her terminally ill father, an Iowa farmer. “He talked a lot about plants, especially the beauty of the sumac,” she says. “That on the last day of his life my dad was talking about plants felt like something I wanted to connect to.”
She had been a commercial artist for 30 years, working out of the studio she founded with fellow artist and husband Dean Lucker. She decided that each of the plants she made would be one of a kind. “I’d had a business in which I made multiples of things,” she says. Making each piece unique “allows me to pursue the most freedom of creativity.”
The first step was figuring out how to make what she wanted to make. “I ended up inventing my own toolbox of techniques,” she says, including making her own paper. “There are other artists doing what I’m doing, but they’re using tissue paper. I wasn’t satisfied with the way that looks.”
Her perspective on the plant world changed. What used to be a simple stroll down the block or through a park has become part of a constant search for inspiration. “I became much more aware of what’s blooming,” she says. “I notice the change of seasons, what comes around at certain times of the year.”
She works on one plant at a time, not thinking about what she’ll do next until she’s satisfied with what she’s doing now. Not that she’s worried about running out of ideas.