If you want to pique your curiosity, go no further than Melissa Haslam's "Floating Garden", now at LeBasse Projects. Resembling scientific, botanical, and entomological studies, the work correlates the blossoming and deterioration inherent in nature and young girls. Her hybrid creations, structured like mandalas and levitated gardens, expose the underlying sexuality present in an otherwise innocent world. At first glance, a childlike naïveté informs each piece. Haslam depicts bedroom-eyed girls that seductively lounge against a backdrop of nature; it resembles an R-rated Alice in Wonderland. In other words, these young girls, like radiant though indifferent Lolita, present a sexuality far beyond their years.
In Tilted Garden, a demure figure hides her face behind her long hair. Her body though, suggests otherwise; she turns her face as if to kiss her shoulder, with hips pushed back she sits on her side, her short skirt barely covers her upper thighs and milky smooth legs. The blooming flowers that surround her suggest her transition into womanhood. In Night Lilies, a red-headed girl peers straight at us. Though her eyes may burn with desire, they nonetheless appear weary and vacant, providing nice contrast with the moon-lit lilies in the foreground.
Throughout each piece on display, the flowers that seem to gleam with life are infested with creepy insects. These insects are a metaphor for the flaws that ‘bug’ our self-image. From a distance, both Infested Emblem and Infested Rose Emblem seem to depict bouquets of flowers. Upon examination, groups of insects scurry across the petals, leaves, and stems. Haslam infuses her gardens with beauty and innocence, but, as with the young girls she places in the gardens, that beauty comes with a cost.
Words and images by Jessica Portillo