Mona CaronShauquethqueat’s Eutrochium, from the series Weeds, 2021.
Photo: courtesy of the artist

Weeds in Art: Growing Hope in the Shadow of Power

Giovanni Aloi
Look west from a window in the upper floors of NYC’s One World Trade Center and you might notice a gigantic mural facing the Manhattan skyline. Imperiously emerging from a black background — twenty-three storeys tall — and painted in the style of an eighteenth-century botanical illustration is a graffito of a weed: Eutrochium purpureum. Mona Caron began painting weeds in public spaces around 2006, initially for a ­stop‑motion animation project, but she soon realized the enormous political potential of her chosen subject and decided to go big.

Caron has developed a worldwide urban macro-herbarium visible in cities such as New York and San Francisco in the United States, Porto Alegre in Brazil, Quito in Ecuador, Vigo in Spain, and Mumbai in India. She sees painting weeds as a form of resistance. Her “phytograffiti,” as she calls them, are accessible landmarks of social and ecological resilience. Eutrochium purpureum is commonly known as Joe-Pye weed; the plant’s name is an homage to the Mohican healer who utilized it in Indigenous phytotherapy. The roots of Caron’s mural titled Shauquethqueat’s Eutrochium (2021) reach deep into the fraught histories of cultural subjugation and forced eradication upon which the foundations of the United States were laid. It proudly stands as a prayer for cultural healing, its bold visibility at once a vivid reminder of the erasure of Indigenous cultures and a celebration of their intimate relationship with the vegetal world.

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This article also appears in the issue 108 - Resilience

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