Walking among a series of prints by the American wood engraver Lynd Ward (1905–85), Art Spiegelman was surprised to find himself transported from a chic Binghamton art gallery into a primordial forest. Though he had not left the gallery, Spiegelman was surrounded by networks of branches, trees, and woods reaching out at him from the prints on the wall. Within this gallery-turned-forest, Spiegelman gained a new appreciation of the power of Ward’s arboreal aesthetic. Singling out a particularly noteworthy print, Spiegelman describes “a panoramic treescape of a young man in shadows, groping and climbing through the dense neuronal wickerwork of dappled trunks and branches, carefully exploring and working his way through the maze of marks that surround him.”
On February 8, 1912, Canadian activist Gertrude Harding orchestrated a protest in the form of a midnight destruction of rare orchids in Kew Gardens. Since the Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew operated as a central node in Britain’s colonial network, a “depot for the interchange of plants wherever it saw commercial possibilities,” Harding’s targeted liberation of colonial subjects struck at the deceptively ornamental center of English power. Acting in the name of the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU), Harding delivered a message: cultivated orchids would no longer be complicit in England’s botanic imperial schemes.