Plants are among the most delicate and ephemeral of living things. A flower may appear for mere days each year and then be gone. For centuries, scientists and artists have attempted to document the beauty and form of plants in many ways—pressing them into scrapbooks, drawing and painting them, photographing them. Something is always lost; none have been able to perfectly preserve the flowers’ natural shape and color intact.
Glass is one of the most durable art-making materials. There are existing glass works from more than 3,000 years ago. But to shape hot glass for sculpture, it must be heated to more than 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit, a temperature that would disintegrate most carbon-based life forms. Over a 40-year career as a glass sculptor, Flora C. Mace (along with her partner Joey Kirkpatrick) has invented new ways to use the material in the service of art-making. In her newest works, she has devised a means of deconstructing living plant forms—leaf by leaf, petal by petal—encasing each in a glass composite to preserve its shape and color. Then, rebuilt from its component parts in three-dimensional slabs of hot glass, the plant returns to its natural shape, preserved intact for millennia to come.