Maggie West: Vegetation Illuminated

By Eva Barragan
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FLORA is a vibrantly photographed plant life and flower series on display at the Standard hotel in West Hollywood until mid March.


Leave it to Los Angeles-based photog Maggie West to transform the lobby of the Standard Hotel in Hollywood into her very own botanical oasis for the opening reception of her photographic plant series, FLORA.

“I decided on FLORA because I love plant life and flowers,” West says. “I feel like a lot of prominent photographers have each done a series of florals, from Robert Mapplethorpeto, Irving Penn to Nick Knight. I wanted to do something similar but more intimate using micro imagery.”

At the opening reception the series included 12 vibrantly hued and brightly lit photographs of exotic plant life as well as a live art installation in which models posed in a glass box filled with intricately lit, real and artificial vegetation.

FLORA, Maggie West
FLORA, Maggie West
FLORA, Maggie West
FLORA, Maggie West

Transgender supermodel, Arisce Wanzer notes that being a part of West’s live art installation was somewhat of a dream come true.

“Maggie is a lighting genius,” Wanzer praises. “I’ve been modeling for 13 years and it’s very obvious when a photographer knows what they’re doing and when they don’t. Her shit is always on point.”

Wanzer analyzes Maggie’s body of work, saying that her ability to reflect the times we are facing through her craft is what makes her a true artist. West’s work magnifies the current sociopolitical climate by transforming the human experience into living, breathing art, doing so in a way that Wanzer describes as, “a beautiful distraction with a light at the end of the tunnel.”

“We’re having all of these things taken away from us and Maggie is trying to help us get them back,” Wanzer says. “She is the kind of artist that can bring awareness to a cause without shoving it down your throat and without letting you ignore it.”

FLORA, Maggie West
FLORA, Maggie West

West said that although she does not think artists have a responsibility to use their medium as a megaphone, they definitely can.

“I can’t say I’m going to do this with every single project that I create,” she says. “But for now, I want to use my work to help causes that I truly care about.”

West’s previous portrait series, STAND, was a benefit for Planned Parenthood where she auctioned off prints and donated the profits to the organization. She will be donating 25 percent of all the proceeds from FLORA to the American Civil Liberties Union and 100 percent of the proceeds from the sales of her photo book KISS,to the Los Angeles LGBT Center, from now until Feb. 19.

“Her proceeds always go to whatever is in need at the moment,” activist and artist, Whitney Bell says. “She provides really accessible politics. She’s making a statement. Even if the subject matter is aggressive, she brings awareness to it in an accessible way.”

Maggie West, FLORA

West said the idea behind FLORA was to provide her audience with a breath of fresh air.

“I thought 2016 was such a rough year for everyone. I wanted to start the year with something light,” she puns. “Flowers and plants are a symbol of rebirth.”

West says that the nature of her work is shooting natural things in artificial environments.

“I think art is all about observing natural things in surreal elements and making people examine things they see in their everyday lives through a different perspective,” she says, “I want to expand on art installations and video visuals moving forward in order to create a more immersive experience.”

West will be releasing a book of nudes featuring cisgendered and transgendered males, females titled 23 in April.

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