Seen from a distance, Marilla Palmer’s works on paper look like renderings of branches and flowers. Upon closer inspection, they reveal themselves to be combinations of drawing and collage that depict strange and beautiful imaginary flora. Palmer juxtaposes artificial objects with natural materials—leaves, petals, mushrooms, and twigs—that she finds anywhere from the garden she cultivates in Brooklyn to tropical rain forests.
Palmer worked for a time as a textile designer, and evidence of this exists in her current work in the form of patterns, scraps of fabric, embroidery, and other embellishments. Many of her pieces begin with the shadows of branches that she traces and renders in watercolor, exaggerating the patterns of the bark in bright colors and sinuous lines. On top of these branches she layers pressed flowers, dried leaves, spore prints from mushrooms, holographic papers, millenary foliage, and sequins, blurring the viewer’s awareness of what is real, and what is not.
Included in the show is a sculpture, The Night of the Daiad. Part tree, part woman, it again combines the natural—a piece of wood—with the artificial—a doll’s arm raised in either salutation or a cry for help. It is a physical embodiment of the tension felt in all of her work, which balance optimism with fragility, hope with ephemerality, and artifice with reality.
Marilla Palmer is represented by Kathryn Markel Fine Arts in New York City, and has had solo shows at Pierogi Gallery and P.P.O.W, among others. She earned her B.F.A. from the University of the Arts in Philadelphia. She splits her time between Brooklyn and Connecticut.