Biblio-Botany: Revealing Beauty in People and Plants – Art by Lisa Meek, MD

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Live In Bay Isles

All photos in this article © 2019  Dr. Howard Levine

If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need. – Marcus Tullius Cicero

Just when you think you’ve seen everything, along comes Lisa Meek, the multi-talented Cleveland, Ohio, esthetic medicine physician and artist who transforms books, literally, into “sprouting,” powerful social statements that demand the eye to linger. And even as you try to move away, you are compelled to look again and wonder at the life-like floral sculptures growing from the pages you see before you.

Sandusky, Ohio, born and raised, and The Ohio State University educated, Lisa recalls: “I always loved books. I love the paper. The concept of how a book works. When the bookmobile came, I loved not only the reading but the ideas hidden in the pages.”

After years as a two-dimensional artist, Lisa wanted to address our hyper-stimulated culture of ubiquitous digital images, smartphones, fast moving and continual visual and digital stimuli (even my dentist has a TV in the exam room!). And, thus germinated Lisa’s 3-D Art!

While botany might not seem the outlet for an advocacy statement, by transforming paper pages into a declaration of social justice, Lisa embeds each of her Biblio-Botanicals with an issue and creates the kind of art that compels the viewer to Stop. Look. And Look, again!

Using a lightly paint-tinted page permitting the book’s words to show through and a sturdy pair of scissors, Lisa transforms the book by cutting, shaping or hollowing the binding, folding, fanning or feathering the color tinted pages, and creating florals rooted not only in the author’s words but literally into the book: each with a poignant message; each striking in beauty: each challenging the viewer to think about a significant issue and how each of us might play a part.

For Meek, the flowers are symbolic, reflecting the complex social issues facing society – global warming, free trade, genetically modified organisms, human trafficking, social injustice, survival, disaster planning, opioids, immigration, racial injustice and even the Civil War. Every social issue is ripe for Lisa’s artistic consideration. Lisa turns a plant concept into something with meaning far beyond an original plant and makes the paper speak.

 The Ark
Inspired by the Genesis story of Noah, commanded to “save the world from the oncoming disaster,” the “survivor” idea intrigued Lisa. Connecting survivorship with the 2008 opening of the “Global Seed Vault,” the world’s largest collection of crop diversity, stored deep inside a mountain on a remote island in the Svalbard archipelago, halfway between mainland Norway and the North Pole, Lisa transformed The SAS Survival Handbook into a botanically correct, well-defined sprouting Ark which is covered in marigolds, forget-me-nots, feverfew, echinacea and violets.

The unexpected contrast of The Physicians’ Desk Reference juxtaposed with Dreamland: The True Tale of America's Opiate Epidemic illustrates that while physicians are America’s pain relievers, opioid addicts need their pain relief. Profit and failure of due diligence created addicts who were once cheerleaders, mothers, construction workers – you name it. We told them it was safe. Lisa Meek starts a conversation of cause and effect.

In the Lincoln sculpture, the cotton plant (Gossypium) is used as a symbol of slavery. The flowers slowly shift from white to purple mauves before turning into cotton bolls. The sculpture appears to be upside down with the roots pointing upward, waiting for our past to be righted. This cotton plant was made from the pages of the book The American Civil Rights Movement: Readings and Interpretations.

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About Susan C. Levine

It’s been a winding journey for Susan C. Levine, taking her from the Ohio’s North Coast to Sarasota’s West coast, where, over the decades, sharing knowledge has been Susan’s underlying life’s work. From classroom teacher to healthcare marketing innovator, from community activist to University of Florida Sarasota Extension’s Master Gardener, Susan loves to share knowledge especially a better understanding and appreciation for the environment and how people co-exist to impact our environment. Believing each person can develop their personal strengths to bring good ideas to their community, Susan is following her own the example!