"New Orleans-based digital artist Muffin Bernstein grows a garden of indigenous and adopted South Louisiana plants, such as banana trees, satsuma trees, blueberry bushes, and mirlitons. Bernstein photographs and scans parts of the plants, & fowers and fruits, as a record of each plant’s production. She then digitally collages her photo fragments using 17th century Tibetan mandalas as a framework. Bernstein’s plants are a natural fit, as Tibetan monks have long made ephemeral sacred circles out of flowers and plants. Within one mandala she uses, say, a satsuma slice for a disc shape, a seed for a crescent or teardrop shape, leaves and petals in arcs, stems in lines, and so on, until the whole growth cycle of a plant is embedded in the image. The Tibetan designs she studies not only incorporate plant matter, but their structure reverberates the radial symmetry and balance of the sacred geometric sequence that is a natural blueprint for outward growth—spirals, forks, stems, seeds, and centers found within cross sections of fruit-slices. Bernstein’s source is as “earthly,” as “deep,” as “the rock cut out” to topple the statue in the Book of Daniel.
Though visually complex, the mandalas’ return is simple. The plants of New Orleans—bananas, mirlitons, satsumas— give Bernstein life through actual nourishment, necessary food. And the harmony of the images radiates back out thanksgiving. Bernstein’s materials teach. Her process teaches her, and she teaches her audience through her result. Her visually radiant images allow for fuller dimensionality than if her images were only made of color and shape fragments that resembled plant parts but were not representative of any known object.
Perhaps integrity of materials generates harmony. " by Georgia Kennedy