Steven F. White &
Jill Pflugheber

Opening remarks at Microcosms: A Homage to Sacred Plants of the Americas exhibited in St. Lawrence University’s Richard F. Brush Art Gallery (Canton, New York).

Steven F. White

Steven is co-editor (with Luis Eduardo Luna) of Ayahuasca Reader: Encounters with the Amazon’s Sacred Vine. The expanded second edition of this work, which won an Independent Publishers Book Award, contains many color plates of Ayahuasca in Visual Creative Expression, presenting “art” as a tool of thought, a reflection of cognitive activity by indigenous and non-indigenous creators.

White published an essay on Ceiba pentandra in The Mind of Plants: Narratives of Vegetal Intelligence (2021). His many translations include Lorca’s Poet in New York in addition to the bilingual ecocritical collections Seven Trees Against the Dying Light by Pablo Antonio Cuadra and The Bones of My Grandfather and Pollen by Esthela Calderón. He is the author of Arando el aire: la ecología en la poesía y la música de Nicaragua and edited the anthology El consumo de lo que somos: muestra de poesía ecológica hispánica contemporánea. He was also guest editor of a special issue on ecology and Latin American literature of Review: Latin American Literature and the Arts. Educated at Williams College and the University of Oregon, White is the recipient of a Lannan Foundation residency and two Fulbright grants for a literary project in Chile and curricular development as a Senior Specialist in Nicaragua. When he was 22, his interest in sacred plants motivated him to visit a Cofan community in the Ecuadorean Amazon in 1977. During a transformative sabbatical year in 1993-94, he actively participated in the Santo Daime Church on the island of Santa Catarina in southern Brazil.

His research with Microscopy Specialist Jill Pflugheber Microcosms: A Homage to Sacred Plants of the Americas was presented as an exhibit at the Brush Art Gallery in 2020 at St. Lawrence University, where White was a founder of the Caribbean and Latin American Studies program and, for 34 years, taught Spanish and Brazilian Portuguese language classes as well as Latin American literature and film. He is currently synthesizing and integrating in written form his experience of being arrested at gunpoint by US Homeland Security forces in his home and subsequently incarcerated for a week in 2020 for possessing the sacrament ayahuasca and Psilocybe cubensis mushrooms intended expressly for his personal use in relation to his own spiritual wellbeing and longstanding academic research interests.

Jill Pflugheber

Jill is a 1986 graduate of St. Lawrence University. She worked 17 years in biomedical research at Harvard, University of Kentucky, and University of Texas SW Medical Center, where she was able to contribute to multiple journal articles such as Regulation of PKR and IRF-1 during hepatitis C virus RNA replication. Pflugheber J, Fredericksen B, Sumpter R Jr, Wang C, Ware F, Sodora DL, Gale M Jr.Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2002 Apr 2;99(7):4650-5. doi: 10.1073/pnas.062055699. Epub 2002 Mar.

She returned to her alma mater in 2004 to take a position as the Microscopy Specialist, teaching courses in electron microscopy, confocal microscopy, and research methods in cell biology.

Each semester, the students in her confocal microscopy course participate in an “Image of the Semester” contest. Each student chooses a favorite image from their own portfolio of images, and anyone from the university community can vote for the “best” image. The university now prints each of the images used in the contest and mounts them for display on the walls of the Launders Science Library.

Jill and Steven began their collaboration after Steven had seen and admired contest images, wondering what the leaf of Banisteriopsis caapi would look like under the confocal microscope. One image led to many, and after more than three years of sample collection and imaging, the Microcosmscollection was born. Originally slated for exhibit in the university’s Richard F. Brush Art Gallery, Microcosms: A Homage to Sacred Plants of the Americas was slated to run from March 2, 2020-April 11, 2020 but was closed early due to Covid precautions.

Jill would like to dedicate her work on the Microcosms project to the memory of her sister Gina Wells (February 9, 1955–February 3, 2022), who was a Biology major at St. Lawrence University with a special interest in botany.