Portraits and Poetry

Arthur Whitman

Ithaca Times,
October 5, 2016

[Susan C.] Larkin uses a digital image processing technique called focus stacking, which involves compositing multiple images of varying focus into a single image. The result is that her photos have an overall clarity perfectly suited to her intricate, alien micro-worlds. Beautifully illuminated against black backgrounds, even familiar plants become unnervingly strange.

The artist varies her compositions, thus avoiding the sort of purposeful repetitiveness that characterizes the classic botanical photography of the German Karl Blossfeldt—otherwise a useful touchstone here.


Pieces such as Aquilegia (Columbine) and Dipsacus (Teasel) maintain a portrait-like distance, showing spiky and twisted forms crisply silhouetted against the dark. …Others such as Echinacea (Cone flower), Daucus carota (Queen Anne’s Lace), and the Art Nouveau-like Iris domestica (Blackberry lily) use cropping to pull us in closer, creating a more abstract feel.

Daucus carota

The Boyce Thompson Institute has been hosting botanically themed art exhibits in their lobby for the past couple or so years as a form of self-promotion and community outreach. The space was new to me and as I have been in the past, I was struck by the diversity of spaces on the Cornell campus for showing visual art. (And Larkin’s images are stronger than much of the contemporary work shown, for example, at the Johnson Museum or within the university’s Department of Art.)

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