Botanica opened last night at Light Grey Art Lab. This show celebrates the origin of our Earth and how plants have shaped our culture and planet. 125 artists drew inspiration from ancient stories, scientific endeavors, historic discoveries, and beyond to create the work for this show.
Once I got over my excitement to be included in this show (I have been known to draw plants on a few occasions before...) I had so many ideas about the direction that this piece could take. I let my mind wander for a week exploring as much plant-related media (podcasts, documentaries, books, blogs) as I could get my hands on before settling on a topic. Many ideas made the B-list (something involving poppies and the Opium Wars? The symbol of the chrysanthemum in Japanese culture? Tulip mania and the Dutch Golden Age?) but someone that I had heard about on a podcast early on in my research stuck with me.
E.H. Wilson was a plant explorer that traveled the world (well, mostly just Southeast Asia) to find new plant specimens to bring back to England to be studied and cultivated. Plant exploration continues to this day and I love thinking about how the world is so vast and the plant kingdom so expansive that we are still able to discover new species.
I loved the imagery of a ship being overtaken by plants and it was a great opportunity to illustrate something that I have loved for so long: Spanish moss. I also really enjoyed experimenting with a more subdued palette than I typically use. The most difficult part was getting the sails right. I wanted them to look somewhat accurate but also keep a bit of whimsy to them (thanks Josh for ship reference material!). I took a lot of cues from images of vertical gardens and "vines overtaking powerlines" is also now in my google search history. After that, it was just a matter of when do I stop adding plants?