extinction parlour back to images

Residing somewhere between baroque wallpaper with its ornate floral medallions and the presumed science of botanical representation, Extinction Parlor acts as both archive and virtual field for New York's once abundant flora. In 1921, the University of the State of New York collected and photographed (black and white) the two hundred and sixty-four most common flowering plants found in the state of New York. In 2008, twenty-seven of these plants are considered endangered or rare. Images of these vanishing plants, taken from hand-colored photographic plates, make up the decorative patterns in Extinction Parlor. By placing these images within the confines and comfort of home decor, Extinction Parlor points to the long and complicated relationship between the decorative arts, imperialism, and the so-called natural world. It imagines a future without access to “real” flora, where leaf has been reduced to motif, plant to pattern, and nature itself to interior décor.

Extinction Parlor exists as both fodder for our fantasies of a return to Eden through the domestic arts, and as a subject of natural history. It points toward the move of what was once considered essential (nature) into the realm of pure aesthetics. For to be purely decorative is a certain death of sorts, a “stilled-life”, a denial of the organic vitality from which the decorative originally arose.


A field guide to New York wildflowers


Endangered (E)*, Rare (R)*, Exploitably Vulnerable (EV)*

Yellow Lady’s Slipper (R)
American Globeflower (R)
Seaside Goldenrod (E)
Hooker’s Orchid (EV)
Smooth Blue Aster (E)
Ironweed (E)
Fireweed (R)
Calypso (E)
Virginia Bunchflower (E)
Clustered Bluets (E)
Cut-leaved Evening Primrose (E)
Small White Lady’s Slipper (E)
Pipsissewa (EV)
Moccasin Flower (EV)
American Dragonhead (E)
Dwarf Huckleberry (E)
Calico Aster (E)
Black-eyed Susan (E)
Houghton's Goldenrod (E)
Meadowsweet (E)
New England Boneset (E)
Cardinal Flower (E)
Snakemouth (E)
Basil Mountainmint (E)
False Asphodel (E)

Endangered: 5 or fewer extant sites, or fewer than 1,000 individuals, or restricted to fewer than 4 U.S.G.S. 7 1/2 minute topographical maps. Rare: listed species have: 20 to 35 extant sites, or 3,000 to 5,000 individuals statewide. Exploitably Vulnerable: listed species are likely to become threatened in the near future throughout all or a significant portion of their range within the state if causal factors continue unchecked.

read Gabrielle Moser's review here