You don’t really get people like Linder Sterling anymore - those I Was There icons that James Murphy so memorably sung about on LCD Soundsystem’s debut single cultivated their mythologies in a time before hype blogs and social media and The Internet In General engulfed any semblance of a scene. Linder Sterling though, she was there: dig just a tiny way into the birth of punk, into the Sex Pistols and The Buzzcocks and (a little later) Morrissey and The Smiths. You’ll find Linder Sterling right there. She was the inspiration behind two of the most famous songs from the aforementioned: ‘Cemetery Gates’ by The Smiths and ‘What Do I Get’ by The Buzzcocks.
Of course, she wasn’t just ‘there.’ Far more than the vapid scenesters and groupies that women from that period are so often characterised as, Sterling was a radical, feminist, multi-disciplinary artist. She designed the famous cover of The Buzzcocks’ debut single, Orgasm Addict, and co-founded the influential fanzine Secret Public with punk journalist Jon Savage. She was also the singer of infamous post-punk group Ludus, with whom she pushed her confrontational politics to the fore - most memorably during a show at the Hacienda before which she placed bloodied tampons on every table and performed wearing a dress made from discarded chicken meat (take that Lady Gaga!) whilst her friends handed out raw meat wrapped in pornography.
Inevitably, her art has become increasingly accepted for the boundary-pushing work that it is, and recent years have seen her exhibiting at prestigious galleries around the world. It is a far cry from her dissident beginnings, when Rank Xerox would refuse to photocopy her ‘obscene’ images.
The fierce messages at the heart of her output have been unwavering however, and it was perhaps equally inevitable that some of her most striking pieces have come to utilise flower imagery, that bastion metaphor for womanhood and fertility. To be clear though, the flower works were never a sign of Linder pandering to more comforting , easy to digest aesthetic pleasures - one series of collages subverts the veneer of glamour magazines by cutting up images of bestiality and offsetting them with delicate blooms and butterflies.
In recent years, Linder has made the English Rose - that most prettified and commodified of flowers - her muse. They gleam almost garishly, thrusting out from between the legs of the dead-eyed centrefold, the blank adonis. As the LA Review Of Books put it, “what seems to be a flower is an object of pure cultural fantasy, something that would not exist without a vast history of human cultivation, just as our own bodies reflect all the fantasies and anxieties about sex that our culture has developed.”
Here are a selection of our favourite Linder Sterling pieces to feature floral iconography. At Floom we are often swept away by the immediate aesthetic pleasures of the flowers we find - however the reasons we truly love them are for the vast complexities that go beyond what you might initially grasp at from the temporality of a bouquet: the unknowable wonder of nature; the symbolism and storytelling that stretches back over endless years and cultures of human history. The ability to shock, delight and intrigue all at once - an encapsulation also of Sterling’s relentless body of work.
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