I explore permeable boundaries between ecology and psychology. Currently, I study the ethnobotany of invasive plant species, using printmaking and installation to represent the complex interplay between culture and plants. Calling on conventions of botanical illustration, these works feature accurately rendered plants in linoleum-printed multiples, but they burst with entanglement, disturbed soil, dying architecture and hybrid creatures. In my most recent work, an 8' x 36' cut paper and ink drawing of exploded mining structures sprawls across the back wall of the gallery. Cut-paper panels float into the center of the gallery, covered in figures that mourn and play, amidst verdant and oft-hated plants which are uniquely suited to cope with conditions in damaged ecosystems. A web of golden string stretches across the open panels, supporting the plants and forms that tangle in and out of industrial architecture and interior space.

I present viewers with the opportunity to consider the ways in which all species alter their environments, and I create an immersive context in which they might experience themselves in relationship with plants as cultural forms. I seek 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. I draw with interconnected layers of space and form to implicate viewers in a game of becoming-with the more-than-human. I bring drawings off the wall and into physical space, opening holes and creating layers through which viewers can move. Through such movement, the work becomes animate; it unfolds in relation with the viewer. I hope that viewers will step away from my work feeling unsettled, open-eyed, permeable, and in-process.


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.