In 2019, I was fortunate enough to find myself in Maine, during Cig Harvey’s Eating Flowers: Sensations of Cig Harvey exhibition at the Ogunquit Museum of American Art . It was an immersive experience of color, beauty, emotion and text and her soon-to-be released book, Blue Violet (released on May 4th) feels like an expansion of that experience as she dives into even deeper waters of sumptuous seeing. Part art book, botanical guide, historical encyclopedia, and poetry collection, Blue Violet is a compendium of beauty, color, and sensory abundance, employing plants, flowers, and our experience to the natural world as the threads that tie it all together.
Exploring the five senses, Blue Violet takes the reader on a journey through nature and the range of human emotions, rich images, drawings, and writing, Blue Violet is deeply personal—dedicated to a friend Harvey lost to leukemia. As Jacoba Urist writes in her moving essay:
Her work has always incited a jolt, eliciting a reflexive gasp of awe, triggered by memory or emotion . . . . Blue Violet is no exception, and readers may be forgiven for assuming this, her fourth monograph, is about botanicals and that sharp intake of air we experience when we encounter, say, the riotous blue of a perfect, singular violet. In fact, these images aren’t about flora. They are however, as she notes compactly, of flowers. They are about living and dying–and her dear friend Mary, who managed to do both, to live as though there were a future, although she knew time was slipping. And most stunningly, Blue Violet is about empathy and the vast potential of beauty—if only for a heartbeat or two —to bridge what seems more and more like irrevocable chasms.
Interspersed throughout the book are 150 stunning images and thoughtful text in a variety of forms—prose, poetry, recipes, lists, research pieces, diagrams whose titles are themselves poems in miniature: : “How to Force Blossoms”; “The Changing Color of Hydrangeas”; “Insomniacs may choose to plant a night garden. Or simply move their beds outside.”; “A Playlist for an Evening Primrose”; “How to Make Hibiscus Tea”; and more.