In a florilegium, botany meets beauty

Share this:
August 8, 2014 // UPDATED 3:27 pm - August 8, 2014
By: Dylan Thomas
Sensitive Fern (Onoclea sensibilis), by Linda Powers of the Minnesota School of Botanical Art.
Submitted image
Dylan Thomas
Plus: At SooVAC, painters Benjamin Rogers, Sophia Heymans and Garrett Perry

DOWNTOWN WEST — In 2010, Minnesota School of Botanical Art founder Marilyn Garber set out on a massive project: to painstakingly document the wildflowers growing in one of Minneapolis’ premier parks in a series of paintings.

That collection of artworks is what’s called a florilegium, and this one is expected to include 135 watercolors of the mostly native species found in Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden and Bird Sanctuary. Located within Theodore Wirth Park, it is the nation’s oldest public wildflower garden.

About four years into the project, Garber and her students (about 36 artists have contributed to the florilegium so far) have completed just over 60 paintings. Expected completion date: 2020.

“We’re not quite halfway, but we have a system down and everybody is working hard,” she said in early August, a week before 45 paintings were to go on display at Minneapolis Central Library.

Garber said most of her paintings take about a year to complete. She recently spent two years documenting the wild red elderberry through the seasons, beginning one fall when she first noticed its small red berries and continuing the next spring when it produced the buds that turn into “teeny, teeny white flowers.”

Botanical art combines art and science. The artists observe a plant during the changing seasons, make field notes and sketches, take photographs and go back to the studio to paint. Early in the process, botanist and wildflower garden curator Susan Wilkins looks over sketches to check for scientific accuracy.

“You have to learn about a plant because there are so many things that can look like each other,” Garber said. The paintings attempt to answer a question: “What is it that makes this plant unique?”

Last year, the school relocated from the Bakken Museum on Lake Calhoun to Longellow House on the edge of Minnehaha Park, and a gallery there is open to the public. But this is a rare opportunity to see nearly half the florilegium on display at once.

“I wonder sometimes if we’ll see all 135 paintings in one place, because that’s huge,” Garber said.

Check back in 2020.

Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden Florilegium exhibition

WHERE: Cargill Hall, Minneapolis Central Library, 300 Nicollet Mall

WHEN: Aug. 15– Oct. 27

INFO: hclib.org/pub/events/exhibits.cfm or minnesotaschoolofbotanicalart.com

 

 

"Inside the Painter's Studio" by Benjamin Rogers. (Submitted image.)

Three young painters

THE WEDGE — Like a lot of artists, Benjamin Rogers resists over-explaining his work, but his recent paintings on display at Soo Visual Arts Center seem to reflect a particular moment in life.

Rogers is 30, just three years out of the graduate program at Arizona State University where he earned his MFA, recently married and a new father. These paintings, of himself, friends and family often depicted in overstuffed interiors that add psychological depth, were made just before and during that series of life-changing events.

A 1969 double-portrait by the British artist David Hockney of curator Henry Geldzahler on a pink, Art Deco couch with his partner Christopher Scott standing nearby was a key inspiration, and Rogers’ paintings share some qualities with Hockney’s work from that era: the stillness of the figures, the flatness and the bold, glossy colors. Rogers’ response is a self-portrait; him on a couch in just his glasses and white cotton socks, surrounded by empty fast-food sacks and takeout containers, red paint dabbed here and there like drops of ketchup.

In another painting, two of Rogers’ friends, an engaged couple, clasp hands in a living room decorated with quirky, Millennial-generation touches. Open wedding magazines are scattered across two candy-colored couches, and symbols of traditional gender roles — lawn implements on his side, a flower arrangement on hers — surround the thoroughly modern pair.

Rogers just finished a year in Minneapolis as a substitute art instructor at Normandale Community College and is back home in the Cincinnati area. Filling the front room of SooVAC’s gallery is a double-exhibition of paintings by two young Minnesotans, Sophia Heymans and Garrett Perry.

Heymans’ work comes from a recent series depicting Minnesota’s natural landscape changing month-by-month. She uses an aerial perspective to emphasize patterns of lines and colors in scenes of dense forest and rolling prairie, and she draws individual elements to the forefront by adding patches of texture — papier-mâché, seeds or string glued to the canvas.

There are other surprises: tiny, almost hidden figures who fly kites or gather wood in the forest, leading the eye through the painting.

Perry’s paintings are equally colorful but looser and more expressive, and they certainly come from a much weirder place. They freely mix the grotesque, dream-like imagery and geometric shapes — some airbrushed onto the canvas — to create powerful, surreal visions.

Haymans and Perry make for something of an odd couple, but it works.

"January," one in a series of 12 month paintings, by Sophia Heymans. (Submitted image.)

"A Cat, I am sure, Could Walk on a Cloud Without Coming Through" by Garrett Perry. (Submitted image.)

 

“Critique of Pure Reason” and “Lovesickness with Trees”

WHERE: Soo Visual Arts Center, 2638 Lyndale Ave. S.

WHEN: Through Aug. 30

INFO: 871-2263, soovac.org