In the Batman universe Poison Ivy is the best character there is by a long shot. She uses plants to fight against corporate greed and the destruction of nature, and she is all about owning her power. Poison Ivy will not succumb to anyone, and she knows that we will always grow back. She is her own person who lives with plants and is an embodiment of the plant kingdom. Don't even get me started on that epic episode from the 1990s Batman cartoon when she and Harley Quinn team up!

Harley and Ivy. Image taken from Vanity Fair.

Like Poison Ivy, plants can really pack a punch. I take lemon balm tea when my stress, anxiety, or depression are too much. It helps me to sleep - not the restless, nightmare sleep that accompanies depression, but real rest. If I take more than half a teaspoon of the leaf, I'm not just down for the count that night, but I'm out well into the morning. Lemon balm is my sleeping aid of choice because it's a restorative to the central nervous system, which is why people recommend it for anxiety and depression.

My lemon balm plant.

Lemon balm is a small, delicate plant, but it has the incredible power to overcome my brain chemistry. For most folks living on the grid, powerful and often aggressive qualities of plants are forgotten. The truth is, plants, like every other living thing on this planet, fight not only to survive but to dominate. Each one has its own healing or poisonous qualities, and each one has an ingenious way to propagate itself, making itself stronger with each generation. Poison Ivy definitely knows what it's all about.

Audrey Jr. from Little Shop of Horrors. That movie terrified me. Image taken from Daily Dead.

Women have been tied to nature for all of history. Fertility, herb-lore, witchcraft, religious or mythological saints and goddesses are all tied to the power of women, and those strengths are almost always bound up with plants. Women and their power through nature are either celebrated and esteemed or feared and fought, depending on which era you're in. That's why Poison Ivy is so great; she is celebrated and feared, and she encapsulates a lot of the complexities between women's power and nature.These days we don't give much thought to how powerful nature is or even how it effects our survival, choosing instead to think of plants only in a domestic, aesthetic way.

Right now plants are having their moment of trendiness in online interiors, patterns, and decoration. We still value them in our homes and landscape, but that's about it. The way that we use plants to decorate reflects the fact that we only value superficial connections to nature. It's a lot to think about, and it's something that I'm working on for my upcoming show about the connections between plants, women, social media, and political activism. Right now I'm focusing on how women and plants are tied together through our shared pasts and cultural depictions (hence, my obsession with Poison Ivy), and what our connections might be in the future.

Plant Crown: Spiderwort and Aloe. Watercolor and ink on paper, 6" x 4". 2017


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