“Botanical Art Worldwide: America’s Flora” is an exhibition of 46 botanical illustrations of native American flora. Curated by the American Society of Botanical Artists (ASBA) and the United States Botanical Garden (USBG), the show is part of a worldwide collaboration of botanical artists from 24 other countries across six continents.
The aim of the project is to highlight national botanical treasures and connect people with plants through botanical art.
The exhibition ran at USBG in Washington from May 4 to Oct. 15, 2018, and is now part-way through a season-by-season tour. In spring 2019, the show ran at the Missouri Botanical Garden through May 5. The show opens on June 8 for a summer stint at Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum, in Wausau,Wisconsin. The last stop of the tour will be in the fall at the Botanical Research Institute of Texas.
The American botanical artists took four years to capture 240 specimens across the country, including bigleaf maple from the West Coast, bottlebrush buckeye from the Eastern Seaboard, and bloodroot, spanning the Midwest and the East.
The artists captured commonly occurring native flora such as sunflowers, poppies, and violets, and also endangered botanicals such as the lady’s slipper orchids, using a variety of media such as gouache, colored pencil, pen and ink, oil paint, traditional watercolor, and etching.
Visitors to the exhibition will see native flowers they may never spot in the wild due to their rarity or remote location.
The elusive yellow lady’s slipper orchid is one example. Artist Carol Woodin spent a long time searching for a specimen through a wooded wetland one year, with a hand-drawn map, but the search provided only a few satisfying studies. In the end, she found the right spot. The flower featured in the exhibition was actually drawn from the rock garden at the New York Botanical Garden, where the flower was in bloom in early May, “tucked in among some ferns, peonies, and Jeffersonia,” said Woodin on the ASBA website.
The subject of Joan McGann’s artwork is the local and rare saguaro cactus, the state flower of Arizona. The towering saguaro can be found only in a small pocket of the Sonoran Desert in America’s Southwest and is therefore protected. The saguaro can reach 40 or 50 feet, and McGann made her observations on a ladder.
Artist Margaret Farr fears that we take dogwood for granted. She made a study of the Virginia state flower, with its familiar delicate white or pink cross-like blossoms lacing along the branches.
Whether familiar flora or not, the show allows us a look into the beauty of the natural world of our nation that may be in our very own neighborhoods.
The native flora of the other 24 countries in the worldwide exhibition can also be seen in a digital presentation at the show.
To find out more or to purchase the exhibition catalog, visit ASBA-Art.org