Karen Lofgren, The Curse and The Cure

Karen Lofgren, The Curse and the Cure (que regia la reina, Ghost of the Imperium), 2018

Medium: epoxy casting of Victoria Amazonica (giant water lily) leaf with embedded wool, fiberglass, aluminum dust, blood, acrylic

Size: 60 x 56 1/2 x 4 3/4 in (152.4 x 143.5 x 12.1 cm)

Credits: Courtesy of Royale Projects


Video Transcript

So the leaf pieces. So I made these large cast resin leaf pieces, based on loans that I took a very, very large leaves in the Peruvian Amazon in 2017. 

I brought the molds back from the Amazon for the large leaf pieces rolled up in a backpack and there were still quite heavy, you know, these silicone molds. And then I built platforms for them and I cast them here in my studio in Los Angeles. Um, I cast them out of resin and fiberglass with embedded wool and every layer more or less. So thereabouts, maybe 8 to 10 layers of fiberglass on each of the pieces. 

The first time I saw the Victoria, it's called a [inaudible], it's called in English or whatever here it's called Victoria Amazonica. And the Victoria Amazonica has two functions in a very broad sense in Amazonian shamanism. 

It curses people in a very direct physiological way. You touch it, it curses you, um, if you are cursed, if you are cursed by magic by another shaman or competing shaman, it lifts curses. So it has those two functions. The series of works in the entire series of works. I was much more interested in looking at the value of ritual as a curative process. So not just at things that, that were medicines and actual medicines, which I was also looking at, but looking at the way that belief influences the way that we approach our concept of wellness and the way that we engage in wellness. 

So, um, that piece was very much speaking to the way that belief and ritual can actually create a sense of wellness or illness depending on its approach, depending on who's who's talking. It's a very context based point of view or idea, you know, it's a belief and that's what things are when their beliefs, they're magical.


Audio Transcript

Artists have long played important roles in creating systems of knowledge. They have traveled the globe with scientific expeditions, creating paintings and drawings that documented plants, places, and peoples from the eighteenth century onwards. Yet the romantic history of the artist as explorer masks the power structures over nature and culture that mark colonialism and its exploitation of people and land. Lofgren’s research is rooted in this legacy. 

The Victoria Amazonica, or giant water lily, is the largest of its kind in the world. It also was historically one of the most seductive, alien plants to have been brought from the Amazon to England in the mid-19th century. Its successful and rapid cultivation by botanists transformed stately European gardens. Underneath, the structure is complex, strong, and vicious to fend of underwater predators. The cell-like design was also the natural inspiration for Joseph Paxton‘s famed 19th century Crystal Palace in London, as well.

Consider the role of the artist throughout the museum as you view William Robinson Leigh’s painting of Thunder Mountain/Dowa Yalanne, photographs of Cahuilla people by Edward Curtis, or a contemporary assemblage by Noah Purifoy, which reflects his belief that objects resonate with the place from which they come.