Marjan Verstappen’s practice encompasses installation, drawing, photography and performance, creating glimpses into experiences parallel to our own, but difficult, or impossible for humans to grasp. She is interested in how humans build structures to interact with the world, in particular, agriculture and trade. This fascination leads her to study the history of European colonization, that fuelled trade of plants, goods and people, and dramatically altered the ecosystem, and history of every country involved in these encounters.
Dandelions are recurrent motifs in her work. A rhizomic plant, it is impossible to define their boundaries, because they are always linked tangentially to an underground network. The concept of an 'underground network' forms the structure of her practice, which resurfaces in different media, sites and contexts, compelling her to build topographies; revealing overlooked coordinates and connections that exist in a site, ecology, or society.
Verstappen makes UV-responsive botanical illustrations as a way of disrupting methods of plant taxonomy and representation, and ultimately challenging control inferred by Europeans over ecosystems, agriculture and diaspora of old empires. Her botanical illustrations are visible to pollinating insects, and only visible to humans under certain light conditions. In doing so, she makes an art experience privileging non-human aesthetic sensibilities.
Recent exhibitions include Gallery Galleria (Toronto) The Fung Wah Biennial by Flux Factory (NYC), the 2016 Art of the Danforth, and the Stantec window gallery. In 2015, Verstappen was the recipient of the RBC Toronto Arts Foundation newcomer artists award and an Artstarts micro grant.
Verstappen was born in New Zealand, where she received her BFA in Sculpture from Dunedin School of Art. She moved to Canada in 2012 and graduated from OCAD University with an MFA in 2014. She lives and works in Toronto, where she is co-director of Younger Than Beyoncé (YTB) Gallery.