“Sell the public flowers… things that they can hang on their walls without being uptight,” Robert Mapplethorpe determined. His astute business sense was rivaled only by the subversive delight he took in imbuing the glory of nature with the darker side of life. It was in his pictures of flora that Mapplethorpe found a place contrast showcase the forces of beauty, sex, and death without leaving a trace.
Unlike his nudes and BDSM scenes, the only flesh exposed here are the tendrils cut off from their source of life, consigned to a slow death inside a vase. But for that moment the flowers are fresh and full of life, for that moment that contain all the promise of presence in the here and now, as their petals burst open and perfume fills the air, that is the moment Mapplethorpe captured for eternity.
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Photo: Robert Mapplethorpe, African Daisy, 1982, Dye Transfer. © Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation. Mapplethorpe Flora: The Complete Flowers, Phaidon.