American Society of Botanical Artists
For Immediate Release
March 31, 2011
An Exhibition of Botanical Art
Green Currency: Plants in the Economy
Green Currency: Plants in the Economy, a juried exhibition of original contemporary botanical art depicting plants of economic significance, opens April 20th and runs through July 31st at The New York Botanical Garden. Forty-three pieces of art featuring plants used for medicine, food, clothing and shelter will be on display as part of this exhibition organized and hosted by The New York Botanical Garden and curated by the American Society of Botanical Artists.
The NYBG Institute of Economic Botany (IEB) has focused research on the relationship between plants and people since its founding in 1981, so the selection of Economic Botany as the theme for the first botanical art exhibition organized by the Garden was fitting. The ASBA with its headquarters located at the Garden has over 14 years experience curating juried international exhibitions making the partnership between the two organizations on Green Currency a natural.
Green Currency capitalizes on the beauty of nature and the mastery of today’s most skilled botanical artists to portray plants upon which people depend for basic necessities and which fuel commerce around the world. ASBA member artists from the United States and 6 other countries, a number of whom are widely collected, are represented in the show. Works in watercolor, gouache, colored pencil, graphite, acrylic, oil, aquatint, and copperplate engraving demonstrate the variety of media employed by contemporary botanical artists, who create art that is both beautiful and botanically accurate.
Dr. Shirley Sherwood, renowned patron of contemporary botanical art commented “I am very impressed with the high quality of the works chosen. This is an unusual, fascinating and thought-provoking exhibition”. Gold, silver and bronze medals for excellence will be awarded by The New York Botanical Garden, the first ever medals for an ASBA exhibition. The team of award jurors will be led by Dr. Sherwood. Carol Woodin, Director of Exhibitions for the ASBA adds that “these shows are highly competitive and a lot of the submissions that don’t get in are really fantastic too…the standard keeps going up, there is just such a strong field these days. Green Currency received a tremendous number of entries, more than any previous exhibition”.
An audio tour, interpretive material and a catalog have been produced to accompany the exhibition. Using their cell phones, “visitors will be able to listen to what each artist has to say about their experience in capturing that plant” explains Woodin. Signage throughout the Garden ties the living collection to plants featured in the exhibition. The catalog which has “a bit of an interesting story about each plant in the show, artists’ bios and bios for all the jurors” continues Woodin, will be available at the NYBG Shop in the Garden. (www.nybgshop.org)
Featured on the catalog cover, Esther Klahne’s contemporary watercolor portrayal of Cotton (Gossypium herbaceum), contrasts the delicate brittleness of the dried leaves with the fluffy softness of the ball of fibers, and captures reflected light and color throughout the composition. A graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design, she earned a Certificate in Botanical Art through the Wellesley College Friends of Horticulture Botanical Art Program in Massachusetts. According to the International Cotton Advisory Committee, cotton fibers are used to make textiles for clothing, furniture and upholstery, medical applications such as bandages and swabs, and pulp for paper. In fact much of the paper on which botanical art is done is 100% cotton rag. Cotton seeds are used as animal feed, to condition soils, and in the production of cottonseed oil. The USDA reports that the United States produced 12.4 million bales (480 pounds/bale) of cotton in 2009 with the largest harvests coming from Texas, Georgia and Arkansas. The U.S. is the third largest producer behind India and China and the largest exporter according to the ICAC.
Karen Kluglein shows the luminous effect of watercolor on vellum in her painting of Corn (Zea mays). An instructor at The New York Botanical Garden, Kluglein received ASBA’s 2010 Award for Excellence in Botanical Art Painting and Best in Show at ASBA’s 13th Annual International Juried Exhibition at the Horticultural Society of New York. In 2009 production of corn for grain in the United States set a record of 13.2 billion bushels according to the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Agency. The U.S. is the world’s leading corn producer with Illinois and Iowa alone devoting nearly 26 million acres to its cultivation yielding about 29,000 ears per acre! Nearly 800 million metric tons of corn are grown around the world per year according to the Foreign Agricultural Service of the USDA who reports on world markets and trade of various grains. China, the European Union and Brazil are the other major producers. Corn is used for food, animal feed, the production of oils and sweeteners as well as ethanol.
Bobbi Angell brings contemporary flair and creative composition to the historic technique of copperplate etching in her original print of Hops (Humulus lupulus). An illustrator at The New York Botanical Garden and for The New York Times weekly Garden Q and A column from 1995 to 2008, Angell’s illustrations have graced the Van Engelen wholesale bulb catalog and the colorful seed packets of John Scheeper’s Kitchen Garden Seeds for many years. The green female flower clusters of the hops plant are used to impart a bitter flavor and provide preservative qualities to beer. The USDA reported nearly 95 million pounds of hops production in the United States predominantly in the Pacific Northwest. 27 varieties are reported to be grown commercially in this country, each contributing a unique taste to the brew. Germany is the world’s leading hops producer, edging out the U.S. with 38% and 37% of the world’s production respectively according to the Hops Growers’ Association. China and the Czech Republic are also significant producers.
Monika deVries Gohlke suggests the strength and grace of Bamboo (Bambusa vulgaris), with hand-colored aquatint engraving. A commissioned designer for Polo/Ralph Lauren and Williams-Sonoma, her works are held in numerous collections including the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Library of Congress. Bamboo, a type of grass, is the fastest growing and most useful plant in the world according to the International Network for Bamboo and Rattan citing its “versatility, admirable engineering and mechanical properties and its aesthetics”. The American Bamboo Society cites 85 species on their website grown for use in housing construction, furniture, flooring, baskets, handicrafts, matting, fabric, paper, and for food, fodder, fuel and charcoal. The Network estimates that one third of the world’s population is directly touched by the bamboo industry.
Dorothy DePaulo, who attended the Colorado Institute of Art, uses colored pencil on mylar, layering color on both sides of the sheet to gain greater color saturation and dimension in depicting the complex and controversial Marijuana (Cannabis sativa) plant. The National Institute on Drug Abuse, part of the National Institutes of Health, states on their website that “the potential medicinal properties of marijuana have been the subject of substantive research and heated debate. Scientists have confirmed that the Cannabis plant contains active ingredients with the therapeutic potential for relieving pain, controlling nausea, stimulating appetite, and decreasing ocular pressure” but that “marijuana intoxication can cause distorted perceptions, impaired coordination, difficulty with thinking and problem solving, and problems with learning and memory.” In the PBS documentary “The Botany of Desire”, Cannabis, being cultivated indoors in states where its use for medicinal purposes is legal, is described as a pampered, spectacularly good looking, multi-colored, rich, resinous being…incredibly valuable, incredibly interesting”. Hemp, a variety of Cannabis sativa can be utilized for textiles, paper, paints, clothing, plastics, cosmetics, insulation and animal feed. It is currently harvested for commercial purposes in over 30 nations including Canada, Japan and in the European Union according to the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.
Milly Acharya has lived in Ithaca, New York for over 20 years. She is inspired by local flora as well as tropical plants from India where she grew up. She paints from live specimens starting directly with paint on paper, without preliminary sketches or drawing, entrusting the inherent grace of the botanical subject, in this case the Foxglove (Digitalis purpurea and Digitalis lutea) to communicate its own aesthetic power and natural design. All parts of the Foxglove are toxic. Yet medicinal drugs derived from digitalis are used to treat heart problems such as congestive heart failure and irregular heart beat making the heart stronger and more efficient which in turn, improves blood circulation and helps relieve the swelling of the hands and ankles common in people with heart problems. Also known as Digitalis Glycosides, including Digitoxin and Digoxin, these drugs are available only by prescription and toxicity issues remain a concern with their use even when supervised by a physician. (Sources - www.pharmaceutical-drug-manufacturers.com, National Institutes of Health, U.S. Library of Medicine)
Akiko Enokido earned a Certificate in Botanical Art and Illustration from The New York Botanical Garden in 2004. Her traditional watercolor approach captures the magnificence of the Pomegranate, its foliage, buds, flowers, and fruit, including a cross section detailing the profusion of seeds from which it gets its name, derived from “seeded apple” in French. Still a source of fascination today, it was one of the earliest cultivated fruits. Originating in tropical Asia, it has been grown throughout the Mediterranean and the Middle East before the Spanish brought it to California where it is commercially grown today in the San Joaquin Valley. Pomegranates are high in vitamin C and potassium, a good source of fiber and low in calories. Its juice is high in polyphenols, antioxidants credited with helping to prevent cancer and heart disease. (Source – The Pomegranate Council)
Ongoing news about the exhibition is available at www.asbagreencurrency.blogspot.com.
Inquiries regarding the purchase of artwork should be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The New York Botanical Garden is located at Bronx River Parkway and Fordham Road, Bronx, New York. Visit www.nybg.org or call 718-817-8700 for hours and venue information.
ASBA Media Contacts:
Jody Williams, PR Committee Chair, 314-341-0225, email@example.com
Carol Woodin, Exhibitions Director, 917-922-6330, firstname.lastname@example.org
Robin Jess, Executive Director, 866-691-9080, email@example.com
NYBG Media Contact:
Elizabeth Fisher, The New York Botanical Garden, 718-817-8136/8616, firstname.lastname@example.org
Cultivating the field of botanical art since 1994, the ASBA is a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting public awareness of contemporary botanical art, to honoring its traditions, and to furthering its development. The vision of the ASBA is to recognize and encourage the highest standards of botanical art created by its members; to create an awareness of botanical art as a living art form with exhibitions in major museums around the globe; to acknowledge the power of botanical art to communicate the importance of plants to our world whether through conservation, science, horticulture or agriculture; to pass this art form and its techniques on to the next generation of botanical artists; and to expand the vision of botanical art while honoring its rich tradition and history. For more information: visit www.amsocbotartists.org