Cultivation is more than a metaphor for creativity in the plant-forward work of artist and educator Alexandria Douziech. Her experiential and sculptural installations do more than document the diasporic histories of healing plants and the cultural legacies to which they belong—though they do this in engaging abundance. But crucially, Douziech performs and embodies her archive of knowledge, both broadly and from within her own family history, in organic botanical works and actions. The founder of the Center for Plants & Culture, a BIPOC educational platform dedicated to exploring societal narratives through the study of plants, as Douziech highlights and recreates both the power and warmth of botanical healing formulas and ceremonies with gravitas and grace, she also interrogates the contested lore and colonial erasure and appropriation of many of these same traditions.
Douziech is the current Artist In Residence at Blue Roof Studios in South LA, where her solo project For protection, with love opens this weekend—an exploration of a plant ritual preserved by Caribbean matriarchs for generations. A large-scale atmospheric installation conceptualizes and evokes her memories of her own Guyanese auntie burning camphor resin over charcoal to protect against the evil eye. Camphor branches line an aromatically infused space also filled with the sound of Douziech recounting the many instances of her family employing this medicinal protective blessing—and along the way, unpacking the threads of her diasporic ancestral journeys and the traditions they preserved and mingled through generations.
L.A. WEEKLY: What is your short answer to people who ask what your work is about?
ALEXANDRIA DOUZIECH: I try to position plants as storytellers—living archives that reflect the legacy of colonialism, as well as the power of human resilience. I should also mention that my art is heavily influenced by my parents’ journey. My mother was born on a Guyanese sugarcane plantation and my father grew up on a canola farm in Canada. So while I use plants to discuss issues of labor and exploitation, my work is also about family and the lived lives behind plants and plant-based commodities.
What would you be doing if you weren’t an artist?
I’d probably dive even deeper into education. Currently, I teach art history and Critical Race Theory at a performing arts college. I also founded the BIPOC educational platform, the Center for Plants & Culture. I’m passionate about teaching the relevancy and “presentness” of history—how the traumas of the past speak so directly to the issues we face today.
Did you go to art school? Why/Why not?
I went to the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts for undergrad and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago for graduate school. Honestly, I believed I had to attend art school to be taken seriously as an artist. There might be less pressure to do that today, but seven years ago, it felt like an inescapable rite of passage. I was also excited by the prospect of dedicating so much uninterrupted time and effort towards my art. I loved being fully focused and selfish! Even with a mountain of debt, the community I built—and the relationships I made with my peers—have meant the world to me.
Why do you live and work in L.A., and not elsewhere?
I love L.A!…but it’s complicated. I was born and raised in L.A., so it’s absolutely home—but damn, it’s an expensive city to be an artist! It’s got its ups and downs and contradictory elements…the immense beauty with the simultaneous injustice. It’s such a loud and famous city, but it’s undeniably nuanced.
When is/was your current/most recent/next show or project?
Right now, I’m an artist-in-residence at Arts at Blue Roof and I’ll be having a solo exhibition at Blue Roof Studios from November 11 – December 13, with an opening reception on Saturday, November 11, 5-8pm. Entitled, For protection, with love, my large-scale installation explores the plant rituals, love, and resilience of Caribbean matriarchs. It’s also about home and the creation of a “protected” space. I’m so excited to share this project with the public…this one has been a long time coming!
What artist living or dead would you most like to show or work with?
After seeing “between a whisper and a cry” at the ICA LA, Alberta Whittle is on the top of my list. That was one of the most inspiring exhibitions I’ve seen in a while. It was so incredibly profound to see a Caribbean artist collapse time and present the “ghosts of colonialism” with imagery of hurricanes and the effects of our current climate crisis. Whittle tackles many themes I’m interested in and presents them in such an honest, poignant, and complex way.
Do you listen to music while you work? If so, what?
I do! I use music to bring me into a specific mental state. And while songs come in and out, I seem to always return to Alice Coltrane, Erykah Badu…and Betty Davis when I’m feelin’ funky.
Website and social media handles, please!
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