Universe Of: Sondra Goodwin - November 12, 2012

"Goodwin’s work is a memento mori— 'Remember your mortality' "

When she was only four years old, Sondra Goodwin became a vegetarian. At 16, she was given her first camera.  At 21, she began to grow and eat her own vegetables.  In growing and eating her vegetables, she realized that she was killing things, but soon accepted the arrangement we humans have with our planet Earth—life and death in the garden. Goodwin’s work is a memento mori— “Remember your mortality.”

My Farm In The Mountains

My studio lies on a path between my garden and kitchen. One day as I walked to the kitchen with my arms full of vegetables, I thought them too beautiful to be consumed. So I arranged them on my scanner and created images and posted them on Facebook. People loved them and I was encouraged by a curator to start making high-resolution images. Now that I was making art, I asked myself, what the hell was I doing? I had an identity crisis. My other work had always dealt with the body and sexuality, and these scanned images were such that even my mother could approve of them. I then realized that it’s all about the physical shape in the world. Flowers are plants’ sexual organs. Their fruits are the product of plant sex, in some cases even interspecies sex—and how much kinkier can one really get? In art as in life, there are no rules, no laws, and no regulations. Vegetables are the bridge between our creations in the world and the natural world. They came from nature, but through centuries of selection and breeding we’ve formed them to fit our needs. I am the documentarian—the vegetables are the evidence of these two worlds meeting.  I grow them, I record them and then I consume them. We have not invented their species, only their variety.

The Human Body—Sex, Nudity, G-Rated

Having always worked with the body as imagery, I have come to think of the vegetables as nature’s body and, finally, I can make sexual imagery that is “G-rated.” I say, show your children the pretty flowers; point out their sexual organs, or their offspring, vegetables, which are so sensual and beautiful. For me, all life revolves around just that—it is life, death, and the continuation of a lust for all life, and all that it entails. Life is about the living of life, and so I surround myself with lots of life, growing all of my own crops and therefore most of my own food in my garden.


Sometimes I see something, and I immediately see it. Sometimes I see something in my mind’s eye, yet it does not translate into the physical, three-dimensional world. There is not just one way of seeing a thing, as from one side it can look completely different than seen from another side. As I gather ingredients for my dinner in the garden, I see beauty. I assemble and compose the vegetables and cuttings on the scanner, making different versions. Staying up until midnight before I have finished playing with my food sure gives the term “starving artist” a whole new meaning. As I am preparing dinner, the peels and insides of the vegetables become compositions on the cutting board. I return to the studio to make drawings on the scanner. My images are not complex, they are about the simple uniqueness and beauty of nature, of which we after all are a part, and hopefully we will learn to appreciate and cherish it again—and maybe that’s enough.

Photograph | Dana Waldon