In my work, ecology and psychology - world and self - meet in constant entanglement. Currently, I’m using graphite drawings, relief prints, and mixed-media installation to explore the ethnobotany of invasive plant species. Calling on conventions of botanical illustration, these works feature accurately rendered plant forms, but they explode convention by representing abundant, wild vegetation with hybrid creatures and dying architecture. Through observation and reading, I study how ecosystems respond to shifting environmental conditions, and I make drawings and prints of specific plant species intertwined with human-ish figures in states of awe and uncertainty.

In this process, I weave ideas from permaculture, queer theory, herbalism, ethnobotany and political history. The work arises out of my research into the ways plants have been depicted aesthetically and scientifically, and it takes note of the cultural frameworks that influence perception of the natural world. I am seeking resonance, both literal and imagined, between ecosystems and human communities.

We’re encouraged to cultivate belligerence toward invasive plants, but both plants and humans have always migrated and intermingled in response to changing social and ecological forces. “Invasive species” are often uniquely suited to cope with the results of human-initiated ecological disturbance: we make the conditions for their growth, and their behavior undoes/remakes our world-building. I draw with interconnected layers of space and form to implicate viewers in a game of becoming-with the more-than-human.

 The format of my installation work is unusual - I bring drawings off the wall and into physical space, opening holes and creating layers through which viewers can walk. Through such movement, the work becomes animate; theatrical. It unfolds in real time, in relation with the viewer. Each viewer will have a unique experience of looking, and no one will ever see everything - the work is playful and bottomless. In 2D work, I prepare the ground, set the scene, and explore the characters. By showing 3D and 2D works together, I invite viewers to participate in drawing one out from the other, activating narrative pleasure. I hope that viewers will leave my future exhibitions feeling unsettled, open-eyed, permeable, and in-process. I hope you will find yourself, newly awake to the things that grow in human-made margins.


Nicole Sara Simpkins makes prints, drawings, installations, books and prose poems. She has shown work at The White Page, The Future, and the Paul Witney Larson Gallery, and she has taught drawing, design, and printmaking at MCAD, UMN, UW Stout, and at Indiana University. She has an MFA in Printmaking from Indiana University – Bloomington and a BA in English from Macalester College.


I love hearing about what this work does: please write if you are so inclined. If you are interested in purchasing work, check out my webstore or write for info on drawings or commissions. Also, I like making album art, especially if you make doom, metal, punk, and/or heavy music, and especially if you are rad/femme/queer/GNC/witchy.  


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Bibliography/what I'm reading:

Ahmed, Sara, Queer Phenomenology: Orientations, Objects, Others, 2006. Duke University Press: Durham, NC.

Bennet, Jane, Vibrant Matter: A Political Ecology of Things, 2010. Duke University Press: Durham, NC.

brown, adrienne maree, Emergent Strategy: Shaping Change, Changing Worlds, 2017. AK Press: Chico, CA.

bergman, carla and Montgomery, Nick, Joyful Militancy: Building Thriving Resistance in Toxic Times, 2017. AK Press: Chico, CA.

Chen, Mel Y., Animacies: Biopolitics, Racial Mattering, and Queer Affect, 2012. Duke University Press: Durham, NC.

Davis, Heather and Turpin, Etienne, editors, Art in the Anthropocene: Encounters Among Aesthetics, Politics, Environments and Epistemologies (Critical Climate Change Series), 2015. Open Humanities Press.

Dunbar-Ortiz, Roxanne, An Indigenous People's History of the US, 2015. Beacon Press, Boston, MA.

Geniusz, Mary Siisip, Plants Have So Much To Give Us, All We Have To Do Is Ask: Anishinaabe Botanical Teachings, 2015. University of Minnesota Press: Minneapolis, MN.

Haraway, Donna J, Staying with the Trouble: Making Kin in the Chthulucene, 2016. Duke University Press, Durham, NC.

Hemenway, Toby, Gaia's Garden: A Guide to Home-scale Permaculture (second edition), 2009. Chelsea Green Publishing, White River Junction, VT.

Kimmerer, Robin Wall, Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants, 2014. Milkweed Editions, Minneapolis, MN. 

Kohn, Eduardo, How Forests Think: Toward an Anthropology Beyond the Human, 2013. University of California Press, Oakland, CA. 

Mortimer-Sandilands, Catriona and Erickson, Bruce, editors, Queer Ecologies: Sex, Nature, Politics, Desire, 2010. Indiana University Press, Bloomington, IN.

Orion, Tao, Beyond the War on Invasive Species: A Permaculture Approach to Ecosystem Restoration, 2015. Chelsea Green Publishing, White River Junction, VT.

Pearce, Fred, The New Wild: Why Invasive Species Will Be Nature's Salvation, 2015. Beacon Press: Boston, MA.

Ross, Alexander ReidAgainst the Fascist Creep, 2017. AK Press: Chico, CA.

Scott, Timothy Lee, Invasive Plant Medicine: The Ecological Benefits and Healing Abilities of Invasives, 2010. Healing Arts Press.

Tsing, Anna Lowenhaupt, The Mushroom at the End of the World: On the Possibility of Life in Capitalist Ruins, 2015. Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ.