Within The Garden a human figure transforms into a dense landscape, overrun by flora and fauna. The body becomes the substrate from which the elements of nature grow, rooted under the skin and deep within the flesh, drawing out nutrients and impurities (those that are metaphorical, experiential, or even philosophical) that have accumulated and concentrated over the course of life. Transformations are rarely easy, and through the process that which is being transformed is compelled to embrace the challenges and difficulties of vulnerability, and to rest within uncomfortable experiences in order to emerge more powerful and renewed.
Drawing on the long history of floral work in clay, Kustec works to honour both the tradition of the craft and the delicacy and resiliency of nature through recreating its intricacies. Her sculptural works draw on nature as a metaphor for both transformation and regeneration. Elaborately rendered flowers and snakes act as symbolic representations of the virtues, attributes, and characterizations of femininity. Through these symbolic entities she seeks to work through her relationship to identity and the feminine by reflecting on her connections to tradition, representation, and patriarchal narratives and systems, in turns questioning, embracing, or redefining and rewriting them.
As a first generation Canadian born to Slovenian parents, Kustec witnessed her mother tending to flower and vegetable gardens throughout her childhood and adolescence. Though nourished by their bounty and beauty, she had no emotional or physical interest in gardening herself. After her parents passed away, Kustec coped with her profound loss through a desire to connect to plants, gardening, and the outdoors—to experience the regenerative and transformational effect of the coming together of body and nature, to work through grief via a connection between the land and her physical body.
Fundamentally, nature represents change; it constantly moves through a necessary cycle of life and death, which in turn enriches and continues the cycle. The transformative potential between nature and body is both beautiful and uncomfortable and here speaks to the powerful and instinctual nature of survival and the feminine spirit.