The Rhodora, On Being Asked, Whence is the Flower
In May, when sea-winds pierced our solitudes,
I found the fresh Rhodora in the woods,
Spreading its leafless blooms in a damp nook,
To please the desert and the sluggish brook.
The purple petals fallen in the pool
Made the black water with their beauty gay;
Here might the red-bird come his plumes to cool,
And court the flower that cheapens his array.
Rhodora! if the sages ask thee why
This charm is wasted on the earth and sky,
Tell them, dear, that, if eyes were made for seeing,
Then beauty is its own excuse for Being;
Why thou wert there, O rival of the rose!
I never thought to ask; I never knew;
But in my simple ignorance suppose
The self-same power that brought me there, brought you.
Ralph Waldo EMERSON, 1834
Despite being a short-lived perennial the Amaranthus has a linguistic root in the Greek aramantos, immortal or unfading. Papapetrou, a Greek-Australian, produced this series to be as abundant with linguistic and visual references as the frame is with flowers. The young women merge with the flora, their body and hair camouflaged against the designs of fabric and wallpaper. The perfume that clings to their skin is almost discernible. These are joyous images of life and vitality.
Eden series 2016
Colour inks on paper
Courtesy of the Artist’s Estate and Michael Reid Sydney
About the Artist
Polixeni Papapetrou was a Melbourne-based photographic artist who passed away in 2018.
Her work explores the relationship between history, contemporary culture, identity and being. Her subject matter has included Elvis Presley fans, Marilyn Monroe impersonators, circus performers and body builders. From 2002- 2018 Papapetrou explored the cultural positioning of childhood. Creating fantastical worlds that feature her children, transformed with masks and costumes and set against both real and imagined backdrops, the characters in her images inhabit other times and places. By focusing on the theatricality and face of childhood, she explores an unconscious realm between the real and the imaginary, archetype and free play, child and adult and photography’s capacity to bridge truth and fiction.
Papapetrou was the recipient of numerous grants from the Australia Council for the Arts and Arts Victoria. She is the recipient of the William and Winifred Bowness Photography Prize (2017), MAMA Art Foundation National Photography Prize (2016), Windsor Art Award (2015), the Josephine Ulrick and Win Shubert Photography Award (2009) and the Albury Regional Art Gallery National Photographic Award (2003). Her work has featured in over 50 solo exhibitions, and over 100 group exhibitions in Australia, the United States, Asia and Europe. Survey exhibitions were held at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne (2013) and the Australian Centre for Photography, Sydney (2011).
The artist has exhibited in major international photography festivals including, “Photolux Festival of Photography”, Lucca (2017); “Lishui Biennial Photography Festival”, China (2017); ‘The European Month of Photography’, Berlin (2016); ‘Daegu Photo Biennale’, Korea (2016); ’The European Month of Photography’, Athens (2016); ‘Dong Gang International Photo Festival’, Korea (2014); ‘Fotografica Bogota’, Colombia (2013); ‘Photofestival Noorderlicht’, The Netherlands (2012); ‘3rd Biennale Photoquai’, Le musée du quai Branly, Paris (2011); ‘The Month of Photography’, Bratislava (2010); Pingyao International Photography Festival, Pingyao, Shanxi, China (2010); ‘Athens Festival of Photography’, Athens (2010); Fotofreo, Fremantle Festival of Photography, Perth (2008); ‘Seoul International Photography Festival’, Seoul (2008); ‘Le Mois de la Photo’, Montreal (2005).
Papapetrou’s work is held in private and institutional collections, including National Gallery of Australia, Canberra; National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne; Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney; Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney; Art Gallery of Queensland/GOMA, Brisbane; Bendigo Art Gallery, Victoria; Geelong Art Gallery, Victoria; Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne; Fotomuseo, Bogotá, Colombia; Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg, Florida; Landstinget, Gävleborg Kulturutveckling, Sweden; Wesfarmers Art Collection, Perth; BHP Billiton, Melbourne and Artbank.