Presence of Plants in Contemporary Art

Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

22 June – 17 Sept 2023

Netooeusqua / West Woods, Shinnecock Tribal Territory, Long Island, New York 2023

Netooeusqua, also known as Chenae Bullock is an enrolled Tribal Member of the Shinnecock Nation and descendant of the Montauk Tribe in Long Island, New York. She is a Cultural Practitioner and Ancient Wisdom Preservationist and lends her extensive knowledge of Northeastern native plant life to explore contemporary and historic perspectives on plants and forests, including the medicinal values of the sacred cannabis plant to be grown at a specially constructed dispensary on Shinnecock tribal land.

Elizabeth Solomon / Muddy River, Fenway, Boston, Massachusetts 2023

Elizabeth Solomon is an enrolled member of the Massachusett Tribe at Ponkapoag and volunteers to represent the Massachusett Tribe and indigenous interests on the Stone Living Lab Steering Committee.  She speaks frequently about local indigenous issues and has a long-standing commitment to human rights, diversity, inclusion, and community building that she brings to both her paid work at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and volunteer work.

The Satanic Formula (after Senanayake), 2017

“Simply, it states that burning fossil Hydrogen and fossil Carbon (Oil, Gas, Coal) using biologically created Oxygen, creates ‘new’ Carbon Dioxide and ‘new’ water vapor that never existed in the atmosphere before. These ‘new’ gaseous inputs into the atmosphere accelerate the current trends of rampant global warming and climate change. But there is another feature about this formula that really makes it sinister and that is the fact the global Oxygen concentration is falling and the only thing that keeps the global concentration levels up is photosynthesis by leaves and plankton.” Ranil Senanayake, 2017


In 2019, Joseph M. Pierce, Cherokee Nation Citizen and Associate Professor at Stony Brook University introduced us by email to Chenae Bullock, Enrolled Tribal Member of the Shinnecock Tribal Nation, Long Island, NY State.  We have stayed in touch with Chenae and had the pleasure to see her speak at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden this March at the spring equinox on Northeasern native plant life, where she explored contemporary and historic perspectives on plants and forests.  Chenae is a Cultural Practitioner and Ancient Wisdom Preservationist, and is Managing Director of Little Beach Harvest, a medicinal dispensary of the sacred cannabis plant soon to open on Shinnecock land this summer.  Netooeusqua, Chenae’s birth name, very kindly collaborated with us on the making of a photographic photosynthesis portrait of her where she invited us into the West Wood close to the stony shore of Shinnecock land.  This portrait grown in seedling grass – including cool temperate native seeds – will be exhibited alongside a photosynthesis portrait of Elizabeth Solomon, a Massachusett Enrolled Tribal Member at Ponkapoag, with long-standing commitment to reciprocity and community building. Elizabeth is an executive board member of the Stone Living Lab presently conducting transformative research and outreach to make vulnerable coastal regions adaptive to climate change while enhancing natural and built environments.

Both Chenae and Elizabeth are remarkable and visionary women, whose people have suffered terrible loss and injustice through the settlement and stealing of their tribal land by the colonisers, and who still continue to face many problems inherent in the embedded ignorance, racism and the ceaseless drive for profit exhibited by Western extractivist and consumerist behaviours and economies – where early land grabs also cut down vast swathes of forest and stole botanical specimens.  We appreciate it is a complex and daunting history, and recommend Amitav Ghosh’s haunting and disturbing The Nutmeg’s Curse.  Both women speak so powerfully about the power of plants, reciprocity, healing, the web of life and how we should love Earth as we love a beloved relative, or friend.