Art Show | Essex Flowers Presents 7000SEEDS, A Solo Show by Artist Helen Ran

poster credit: Essex Flowers

Essex Flowers is pleased to present 7000SEEDS, Xinan Helen Ran’s first solo exhibition with the gallery. 

In late Spring 2020, people across America received suspicious, unsolicited packages of seeds that appeared to be coming from China. Packed in small padded envelopes without labels, these mysterious seeds showed up in mailboxes across all 50 states. USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service and DHS’s Customs and Border Protection issued warnings and advised residents not to plant them. Occurring at the height of covid pandemic and concurrent with the arrival of vespa mandarinia–coined by the media as “giant Asian murder hornets”–the public perceived the incident as another conspiracy by the Chinese to interrupt the US ecosystem. The scheme, it turned out, was instead  part of a “brushing scam” for positive Amazon reviews, and the seeds were tested to be common vegetable varieties found in a backyard garden–alas.

7000SEEDS digs into the shared illogical paranoia of the invasive other, and unearths the seemingly scientific cause-and-effects that we take as truth–out of anxiety and the fantasy for self-sufficiency–in a global market that is tumbling towards a slow ecological collapse. In Seed Banks (2023), oversized gelatin capsules are meticulously painted with text and images that Ran has been collecting since the pandemic. These drawings on capsules depict uncertainty, doubt, and capricious promises, that rotate over and over for viewers’ reassurance. Resting precariously on mailer-tube pedestals, each capsule is filled with a pack of “mystery seeds” from the “Great Seed Panic of 2020.” The seed varieties are obtained through USDA public records but purchased at open markets in Manhattan Chinatown, in February 2023. 

Moments Before (2015), Ran links the sentiment during the 2020 Seed of Terror with inherited societal fears towards “the enemy.” The manuscript-style ink drawing depicts a soldier surrounded by treasures inside a cave, holding a bucket of explosives. Envisioned during a breathwork session in 2015, the soldier serves as a surrogate for the artist’s past lives. Awaiting the enemy before blowing themselves up, this soldier destroys, while symbolically protecting the integrity of the treasure from invaders outside the cave.

The title 7000SEEDS is inspired by the 2001 manga series 7SEEDS by Yumi Tamura, which follows the struggle of five groups of young adults after their revival from cryonic chambers called “seeds.” In the “seeds” in 7000SEEDS act both as invasive species and as intrusive thoughts–they are collected, purchased, preserved, and eventually–literally and metaphorically–planted, into a tangled fantasy of doomsday survival and destruction.

Exhibition Dates

March 16 – April 16, 2023

Opening Reception

March 16, 2023, 18:00 – 21:00


Essex Flowers Gallery

19 Monroe St

New York, NY 10002


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About Artist

Xinan (Helen) Ran (b.1994. Inner Mongolia, China) lives and works in Brooklyn, New York. She received her MFA from Hunter College (2022), and BFA from Pratt Institute (2017). She specializes in fabric, language, and found objects to construct emotional landscapes. She searches for the point where trauma, nihilism, and humor converge. Xinan is a current mentee in New York Foundation for the Arts’s Immigrant Artist Mentoring Program (2023), was a Lower Manhattan Cultural Council Arts Center resident (2022), and an Ox-Bow Summer Fellow (2016). Apart from her studio practice, Xinan is the co-founder of Tuft Love, a rug tufting business; an art educator, and an aspirational set designer for new theaters. 

(text & photo courtesy of the artist)

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