Chinese ink, fig trees, gardenias
public artwork for Memminger Auditorium
Charleston, SC, USA
May 22 - May 31, 2015

Throughout the run of installation opera Paradise Interrupted, visitors were greeted by a blackened garden of gardenias that surround large-leaved fig trees. Gardenias are fragrant, leisurely, and seductive in their femininity with blooming white flowers. Figs, by contrast, are uniformly black and austere, with large sturdy leaves and a statuesque constitution as the masculine counter part in the garden. 

The fig trees represent the Garden of Eden—an important reference in Paradise Interrupted–and gardenias are characteristic of Charleston’s opulent gardens. Together they embody the curious, charming, and refined character of Charleston and the opera. This installation serves as the symbolic springboard that inspired the setting for the opera, and brings a piece of the mystical mindscape of Paradise Interrupted outside of the theatre. 

All the plants are painted black with Chinese ink to create a landscape painting in three dimensions. While the black coverage slows the plants' growth, the ink does not terminate life, and plants continue to grow. The tender green shoots break out from the black, giving evidence of the perseverance and resilience of life. This spirit is conveyed by the female protagonist in the opera on her journey in search of an unattainable ideal. 

© 2019 Jennifer Wen Ma

Jennifer Wen Ma

Littlemeat Productions

New York, NY

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Spoleto Festival USA Charleston, South Carolina 2015