Frisky Fruits and Voluptuous Vegetables

Robin Bachtler Cushman ’90, MFA ’07, got her first camera at age ten. Her love of gardens and photography eventually came together in a career as a horticultural photographer. “I explore our gardens and farms—the plants, soil, and insects that work together to provide the produce that we consume. Their role is crucial to our survival—and our pleasure,” she writes, in the “artist’s statement” accompanying a show of her work, Nature Nurture, on display through September 17 at Lane Community College. Cushman has worked extensively for Sunset, Williams-Sonoma cookbooks, and other culinary and gardening publications. She’s contributed to more than forty books.

As digital photography was revolutionizing the field, Cushman decided to update and enhance her film-era skills, entering a UO master of fine arts program and studying photography with Associate Professor Dan Powell and fine art printing with Professor Craig Hickman.

“My horticultural photography paid my way through the MFA,” she says, while her studies “taught me to think critically, work creatively, and articulate my artistic research. The art department encouraged students from across art disciplines to research and develop our individual art practices within a collegial community. . . . Additional classes in the history of landscape architecture fed my interest in the nature-culture connection.”

Since receiving her MFA, she has taught several courses at the UO, including black-and-white photography, a freshman seminar on visual literacy, and, this fall term, a freshman interest group in which students will, among other things, explore photo archives in Knight Library.

“As an artist,” she reflects, “I see vegetables and fruits as visual delights that are as glorious and sumptuous as flowers.”

Photography by Robin Bachtler Cushman ’90, MFA ’07